Perhaps living in Vancouver for the better part of my life has heightened my expectations regarding “green spaces”, trees, and reluctantly – shrubbery. I’ll never forget my private belly laugh the day a guest visiting from America blurted out ” what the hell is with all this shrubbery?” This person was genuinely flabbergasted by all the carefully manicured hedges lining our city streets. We have strict laws regarding trees – none can be cut down without a permit, even if on private property. For every tree that is removed, five more must be planted. Our mild winters and early springs are perfect for blossoming varieties; a great deal of thought goes into placement of cherry, plum, magnolia, and hawthorn. The city places trees for optimum visual effect, regardless of the season. My street has everything from plum and oak to sumac.
If asked to imagine a tree, few people would picture anything like the “fairy tree” in my front yard. These pictures taken on my phone can’t begin to do this tree justice. Barely a week goes by without spotting someone stopping to capture the impossible dimensions and odd tilt of this giant. I’m not a great judge of distance but would guess it was around thirty feet tall. The height is irrelevant; my tree decided decades ago to dismiss convention – why grow tall when you can grow wide and defy gravity?
Little imagination is required to understand why my young children thought of it as the fairy tree. Twisted branches rope around an ancient trunk, leading towards the inner sanctum. Generations of soft foliage cushion nooks and crannies within its cavernous interior. No amount of rain, wind or snow can make their way past its defences. My children are adults now; busy lives leave little time for peeping inside the fairy tree. A few years ago a pair of ducks decided to make it their home; they materialize in spring – I always know when they’ve moved in because at 6 PM every evening they emerge to waddle down the street. At first I pondered – what duck would choose to live in a tree? Then I reminded myself; this is the fairy tree.