by Kevin Fahy
piece of writing, although very personal, has echoes of the
problems that arise between western development projects and the lands
of indigenous peoples. For nearly all of us, there is some aspect of
our landscape or our natural environment that is sacred to us.
It is quite interesting and sometimes very confusing how people become attached to certain elements of life. Some people absolutely detest almost any sort of change, especially that which involves technological advancements. New technology is often snubbed by those who are unaccustomed to it. Perhaps they do not wish to start from scratch and learn how to use the new piece of equipment, but would much rather continue using what they are more comfortable with. Changes in landscape are also coldly met, especially if it affects the scenery and general feel of an area. Another reason to gripe can be found in changes to certain customs. People like to continue living their lives in ways that they are familiar with.
However, change is inevitable, and it boldly manifests itself to reshape the way people live their lives. While not all change is bad, humans cannot help but become attached to objects of the past. These attachments are very significant in the long run of our lives.
A small family, originating from a small town in the Lower Mainland, took the ferry to the big city of Nanaimo and purchased a house overlooking beautiful Long Lake. On the property, there happened to be a large maple tree at the entrance, greeting everyone who ventures into the house. For a six-year-old boy, moving from a house with no maple trees in sight, this was a big deal. His obsession with delicious maple syrup, maple sugar, and maple butter was unparalleled, so the presence of this golden tree on his new property was exciting to say the least.
Unfortunately, he did not quite understand that this tree did not bear the sugary treat that he enjoyed so much. Regardless, the tree was still a source of fascination, and represented to the little boy a time of mystery, discovery, and intrigue.
Of course, that little boy was me, and presently as I pass the stump that was once a maple leaf factory as I leave my house every day, I sometimes get a whiff of maple syrup upon remembering my childhood. It is amazing how something as seemingly insignificant and simple as a maple tree can become such an object of obsession and attachment.
Many joyous moments of my childhood were spent around that tree. One of the games that I enjoyed playing with my friends had no strict rules; it was an imaginary game. Although the object of the game and the make-believe surroundings constantly changed, we always had an important role for the tree, as it was used as neutral ground, our home base, or sometimes even as a candy factory.
For the record, trying to eat maple leaves is generally not the brightest idea. Anyways, the underlying result of these games was that it made the tree significant and compelling to me; it certainly metamorphosed into something much greater than a simple maple tree. Not only was the tree a centre of fun and games for my friends and me, but also a source for my very first job.
My parents were very trusting employers, and allowed me to collect leaves unsupervised. If handling these glowing gems of photosynthesis was not enough, I received one penny for each leaf that I cleared from our driveway. I did such an exceptional job too, and went the extra mile to collect leaves from the garden and the neighbour’s driveway too! However, I think that my great work inadvertently threatened my employer’s business, and in turn led to my unemployment.
My parents evidently did not share my fascination with the tree. For justified reasons, the maple tree was cut down one day after my fourth year of living in Nanaimo. If the tree were allowed to continue growing, we would have started to notice its roots springing out of the hard asphalt driveway. Also, my parents were evidently not entirely keen on the tree’s contribution to the autumn foliage. The tree was to come down.
It was quite a simple process actually, and the job was finished before I returned home from school. In the morning, I left for school squinting from the sunlight trickling through the golden maple leaves. Upon returning home, I was greeted not by my pillar of mirth, but by an ugly black garbage bag covering an even uglier stump. I remember thinking how plain and normal my house now looked just because of the absence of a tree. Because I was a bit older, the fact that our maple tree no longer existed did not really bother me too greatly. While it was certainly a visual change, I still went on as if nothing had changed. However, the character of our property most certainly shifted after that day.
When I remember what my life was like in my earlier years of grade school, I always visualize my experiences with a different flavour than my current experiences. For some reason, my earlier memories have a greater sense of warmth, bewilderment, and sweetness to them. Although the felling of our tree was simply a beneficial move to reduce hassles, I incorporated it into my life, and as a result felt that I lost something when it came down. It was not the aesthetic value of the tree that enthralled me either, but rather its symbolic value. To me, it represented my life in Nanaimo, and although this sounds quite silly, for a boy who was fascinated by almost anything, it was all very real.
Moving on, I obviously had countless new experiences and fabricated more magnificent memories than I could ever hope to retain. However, a different flavour was applied to all of these memories, and it easily allowed me to separate my early childhood from my teenage years. My attachment to a silly tree is now a virtual bookmark in my brain.
From my simple experience with the maple tree, I can relate my attachment of this object to understand other people’s attachment to particular things, places, or customs. For example, my father grew up in Ireland, and often tells me stories about his childhood there. When he complains about random things with an utter disregard to the blatant possibility that the things he is complaining about may be favourable, I can see how his attachment with his homeland shapes his new encounters and marks his boyhood.
All things considered, it does not really matter if cars are driven on the left hand side of the road or the right, but at least for my father, the right way will always be the left. His attachment to his past is analogous to the rest of the world’s inhabitants. When we are old and grey after a life that is bursting at the seams with adventures, we will refer back to our metaphysical bookmarks to find and rekindle our various experiences. The attachments to our surroundings that we develop together before that time will define that experience.
All journeys in life have a certain feeling or taste to them. The surroundings or realities that the journeys take place in can be more memorable than the experience itself. In this way, the value of these things, places, and customs that we become attached to are tremendous.
|Author: Kevin Fahy lives at Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. He is eighteen.|
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