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Celebrating Trees in Southwestern Ontario

Mother trees surround us, the very few left over from original forest we long paved over, old rotten stumps that settlers burnt to clear their land.

The Oak above Pond Mills hidden on a hillside of younger upstarts. The Beech behind Attawandaron where October puffball might pop.

The Black Spruce and Tamarack that whisk us into clearer northern air as we walk through Sifton Bog like winds that wind along each limb.

The Hickory I climbed as a girl on Medway Farm, lying astride one long branch intertwined by all those saplings vying for light.

The three Birch in our front lawn, planted when we moved here some sixty years ago, growing old along- side, dropping fireplace kindling.

Trees we have known are trees we can meet by species. Once connected, always familiar, old friends to greet on any city street or in deep woods if we can slow down long enough to salute the Tree of Life in each.

Light candelabra of Catalpa, Horse Chestnut, Pine, Balsam Fir, Juniper or Cedar cone. Sing a litany of names that belong here.

Alder, Balm of Gilead, Willow galore. Glorious Maple, Butternut, sad slips of Elm, even intrusive Buckthorn now. Celebrate those graceful interlopers, the Carolinians (Redbud, Tulip Tree, magnificent Magnolia) sheltering here at comfort’s edge in Snowbelt country.

Here’s to lacy Walnut, Honey Locust, whose canopies carry us off to African plains: Acacia giraffes might browse or Le Douanier paint above his lion.

Sycamore is our memory tree, shedding its bark like arbutus, its winter silhouette a ghostly skeleton, reminiscent of that other London’s Plane-shaded streets.

Trees know their season, their reason for being. How each tree reaches out to be- come World Tree. We have so much to learn from not living on but with our place.

We who live in this Forest City must ensure a name never replaces the reality of canopy. Long may our trees flourish for we can only prosper with our elder brothers, our mothers.

Penn Kemp Celebrate the Trees, Museum London, September 25, 2009