Wednesday 7 August 2013


I gave some thought to forests today. I live in the foothills between prairie and mountains. On the one side,trees follow the banks of a river or windbreak on the farm, and on the other the trees, although plentiful, are mostly coniferous. I’m not complaining, but sometimes I miss the trees and forests of eastern Canada.
Our fairy tales are riddled with forests; Hansel and Gretel were lost in the forest, Snow White found lodgings in a forest, wolves, foxes, wood cutters and even three pigs spent some time in forests. The forests of Middle Earth were more than living and also more than terrifying for anyone carrying an axe or torch. I think that the Ents are my favourite literary characters, and when they showed up at Helms Deep to save the day, I jumped to my feet and cheered. They stopped Saruman and destroyed Orthanc in a positively “hasty” way.
Yes, there is more than just a little geek in me.

When I was a little kid, the forests at my grandmother’s cottage provided endless hours of adventures. We would be Daniel Boone or living in James Fennimore Cooper’s world, wandering a continent wide forest, battling Indians, black hatters, wild animals and older brothers. There was a portion of that forest where the trees starved for light would die tall and thin. There I would be superman or the Hulk, pushing trees over in fits of rage.
We would climb the big two hundred year old Maple trees and build what in our minds were Disney style tree houses. We would climb just a little further than was wise and spend what seemed like hours clinging to a too small branch until my brother would tell me where to put my feet and hands so that I might get back to familiar branches. There was nothing quite as funny as peeing from high up in a tree and watching the stream go on forever. There was nothing quite as humiliating as having someone high up in a tree pee on you.

You forget just how wonderful trees can be as you grow into an old man. Well, you do until you see trees through the eyes of a six year old and a three year old like I did today. Hurricane, Tornado and I went to Riley Park today. It is one of those manicured parks that are good for Frisbee tossing, picnics, lovers, reading about Middle Earth and letting five and three year olds discover the wonders of a forest. They are small enough to walk inside the line of bushes and small trees that surround the park. To them it was a green tunnel filled with birds, squirrels, mushrooms, berries (never eat those!) and wonderful, glorious trees!

There was a point when Poppa was walking alongside the bushes and I heard a little voice from far over my head saying “Look at me Poppa!” I looked up and I saw the light of my life about fifteen feet above my head, with a smile from ear to ear. I walked towards him trying to stay calm and said “You know it’s sometimes harder to get down than it is to climb up.” Just then, there was a loud crack and my daughters baby dropped into my arms, no worse off than before. Turns out that it was easier to get down than it was going up, and Poppa got a couple more gray hairs.

I kissed him on the cheek and said “That was pretty exciting! Let’s not do that again.” He agreed and raced Tornado across the grass to the playground.

Forests, no matter how small, can still be pretty scary…

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