The Tree of Secrets – Alive as a birch, now transcending dead wood with bark balanced apart

I was recently up at my parents cottage, upstream from Ottawa on the south shore of the Ottawa river, for a round of cleaning and organizing for those who might arrive later this summer for a stay. Actually my motives were simple — just to spend some time with my parents while involved in an activity we were very familiar with: cleaning the evidence of three seasons abandonment to weather, forest, and fauna, away There were the usual new holes chewed where wall meets ceiling, mouse poop on the dinnerware, still-life moths from earlier this summer or left over from last year.

This tree, which you see from our outer verandah, on the slope towards the river, caught my eye, and you can see why, as any strange shape or shadow in the woods draws our eye. The bark had split from base to somewhere up in the sky, and was drawn back, revealing the bare wood of the tree. I don’t know if this birch is still alive. Probably not. But in its inanimate way it had a new responsibility, no longer a watcher of the woods, with its colleagues, now it was time to draw back its century old skins — its cloaks — unabashedly show the ravages of time, the way we do in the doctors office, bare, or in our undergarments, seated high on the bed, or standing by the scale, and tell the story of what our bodies have seen and been exposed to for all these years. I figured if the tree had to come clean with a story, the story is echoing deep within its core. This Grande Dame of a tree has got me thinking that it’s time to write what I believe she may have seen for all those years.

My parents built the cottage around the time I was born, so it has seen at least those decades of us running up and down the hill to the beach, with melting popsicles, a soggy dog, paddles, life jackets, canoes, people in casts, bikinis and beach towels. My recent novel is based on the land here, but the story is constructed according to the elements I believed and had learned would drive the story — quirky characterizations of fictional characters, conflict, simplicity, all told in the voice of a twelve year old. I have decided to relate what I can of my summers in this enchanted place and “blog” it on another page on this site. Perhaps to tell the tree’s story, and weave it into my own. There might be no pictures, unless they are those I can find in photo albums, and the bottom of drawers and show boxes, but I challenge myself to get it right with words so there need be no pictures. We’ll see how it goes…

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