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  Weekly Feature (July 8, 2007)


A Man Who Planted Trees
Brad's Weekly Feature

On the corner across from me lived a man who planted trees. Mostly conifers, the trees towered over his house, some as high as 25 meters. On a double lot, he tended a grove of 23 mature trees.

A bit of a hermit who spent most of his time inside, one of my neighbours who moved here in 1956 remembers him living there even then. I moved here in 1986. Although my neighbour rarely spoke, he always gave out candy at Hallowe'en and strung Christmas lights in his windows.

My wife and I always said that when he died, his trees would soon be gone. Late last fall the police came. His relatives had tried to call; he didn't answer his phone. It wasn't too long after that a "for sale" sign appeared, with an asking price of 1.2 million dollars for the lots—crazy Vancouver real estate!

Eight months later, the trees are gone. My neighbours and I counted 18 cut down on Thursday, a terrible day. The buzz of chain saws and the roar of the excavator went on for hours and hours. The dull thud of falling trees made me jump more than once.

Sixty years of growth, all cut in a matter of a few hours. Someone on a gulf island once remarked that trees are the "lungs" of the earth. Although I know my new neighbours will likely build two beautiful homes (affordable by very few), I still mourn the loss of my neighbour and his grove of trees.

Yesterday, I heard a young woman sing Joni Mitchell's song, "Big Yellow Taxi," at Granville Island. She sang, "Pave paradise and put in a parking lot; you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

Making matters worse in my neighbourhood, the playing fields of Hillcrest Park are now being built on to provide a venue for a week of Olympic curling. My daughter said to me yesterday that "it doesn't look much like a park anymore."

With the earth in crisis, I see what is happening locally and end up feeling deeply pessimistic about our future. What matters most is certainly not trees and fields.



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