trees R us


We had a couple of pear trees in the backyard when I was a kid.

And my dad had a movie camera. Super 8, I think. A big deal at the time. Fancied himself the Spielberg of home movies.

But the Spielberg of home movies he was not.

The pear tree and the Super 8 spent a lot of time together. My dad behind the lens and me up in the branches. Him on the lawn, red light flashing, yelling at me to go higher. This was before sound, so the footage more or less shows me shaking my head, mouthing noooo… looking terrified, then climbing an inch higher. And so on. For several minutes. (A kind of psychedelic bonus was the wobbling of camera due to his waving arms while yelling instructions.) (The fact that a pear tree is not very tall is insignificant to this story. Or is it?)

He had a thing for capturing the tree in different seasons. Blossom time, fruiting, fall colours. And what’s a tree without a kid in it? Climb high as you can. You call that high?? Higher!! Don’t be such a baby. HIGHER!! 


He grew up in the mountains, in a world of trees and, I think, felt most at home around them, so he planted a front yard full of evergreens and a backyard full of plum and apple, apricot and cherry. The pear trees came with the house, which was built on the site of a former orchard, the remains of which orchard was vast and right across the road, and probably the reason they chose that site.

He was in no way a slow moving person except when he went for a walk, then he’d ramble, take things in. My mother, the opposite, a snail in most things, but a fast walker. What’s the hurry? he’d yell from several feet behind.

I preferred his pace. It allowed looking and talking, imagining and what-if-ing. He was a magnificent what-if-er. The details of those conversations are gone but the essence of them linger and sometimes a bizarre what-if kind of question pops into my mind and it’s then I miss being able to say hey, dad… imagine this…

Occasionally he’d bring the Super 8, go all Spielberg and yell for us to stand here or there, to smile, pretend you’re having fun for god’s sake!

Not the best part of the rambles.

I often think of him now as I traipse about at my own between-fast-and-slow pace. Like him I usually have a camera in hand. Unlike him I don’t yell at people. Much.

I see things he would have loved, or things we might have wondered about. He was a great wonder-er. I imagine how I might tell him I’d still like to live in a tent, or a cabin, in the woods, and how he’d say who wouldn’t?

I’ve forgiven the film shoots.

And, remarkably, I have a great fondness for pear trees.

The best part though, the gift of his tree-loving nature, unintended as it surely was, is that reminders of him are forever everywhere…


Adding this, which I stumbled upon today and which so wonderfully fits.

“Hence in solitude, or that deserted state when we are surrounded by human beings and yet they sympathize not with us, we love the flowers, the grass, the waters, and the sky. In the motion of the very leaves of spring, in the blue air, there is then found a secret correspondence with our heart.”

— Percy Bysshe Shelley, “On Love”


things that stuck

What he taught me:

Keep your vice closed at night.

For anyone without a dad-with-a-workshop, a vice is a clamping gizmo attached to the work bench… He obviously had great hopes for my future in carpentry.

Nail biting and driving don’t mix.

The deal was he wouldn’t teach me to drive until I stopped biting my nails. So I stopped. Then he taught me to drive by yelling at me from the passenger seat. This did my nails no favours.

A parking lot is the most dangerous place in the world.

Especially during the holiday season…

Happiness is a warm potato.

I once found him sitting on the stairs between the kitchen and the back door, eating a just-boiled potato with butter and salt. He shared it with me and as I sat there on the floor with him I thought — I knew  — it was the best thing I’d ever tasted.

Pioneers did too have aluminium foil.

They apparently wrapped their just-caught, so-small-it’s-barely-legal fish in foil then tossed the package into a hole dug behind their rented cabin and lit a bonfire on top, which, by the way does exactly diddly squat as far as cooking fish goes.

Do not answer a question, any question… with just one word.

It’s bloody rude!! he explained. (I think he might have regretted the lesson when I started answering simple questions in paragraphs and chapters.)

Spider!!!!! sounds like Fire!!!!!! when shouted by a small child from her bedroom in the middle of the night.

And when what’s been shouted is clarified, the dad who has rushed into the small child’s bedroom, will say oh for christ sake, is that all  but will take the spider outside before going back to bed.

If you get a chain letter and aren’t sure whether to make-ten million-copies as-instructed-or-you’ll-be-hexed… call the library!

Because the library knows everything. This was pre-internet but, still, libraries continue to trump in my books.

He also showed me that sitting can be an art, whether taking a break during or after hard work; it must be done with pleasure and deep contented sighs, coffee or tea, silence or words, alone or in company, and entirely without guilt. And that if you need a thing you haven’t got, see if you can make it before you go out and buy it. Not to save money but for the satisfaction you get from being clever and using stuff that’s just laying around anyway. He taught me about seeing and wondering and imagining impossible things that might just be possible and he showed me how to laugh until my stomach hurt in the best way and that even the strongest, tallest people in the world will cry sometimes.

In the months before he died I sat with him, a sense of pleasure at being in his company, thin contented sighs mixed with something else, often in silence, with tea, reading Emily Carr’s Growing Pains , holding his hand as he slept.

The things that stick.