|Northern White Cedar|
I wouldn't have noticed any of this detail if it were not for this project. I mean, I knew, in a general way, that Charlie was working to re-wild the campus, but I would not have seen the details of the older scheme, nor seen exactly how the old and new plans interweave. The old, gnarled trees along the main driveway were once an avenue of sugar maples, for example. While the property lay abandoned, before the school got here, a lot of younger sugar maples seeded in, and Charlie kept them and protected them from the deer and the goats, so now we have an avenue of venerable old trees maybe two or three feet across surrounded by a lot of younger, small trees maybe six inches across and thirty feet tall, plus younger trees, saplings of various species, here and there. I think they tap the larger trees, and I've found some stumps, as though Charlie is thinning the young trees here and there, to give them room to grow, but
This is all a deliberate creation, the product of a human vision, just like a flower garden. It is not natural...but I'm starting to think it may be wild, or at least getting there.
And it is learning to see the details of the artwork, labeling every single tree, that has shown me the single exception to Charlie's plan, the single place where he planted a non-native tree. It's in the formal garden, off towards one corner. It's a Chinese dogwood, too small for me to have to label it, but it got my attention so I looked it up anyway. From it's size, Charlie had to have planted it, or known about its planting--it doesn't predate him, I mean. At the base of the tree is a wooden plaque, with the name "Abia" and the years 1902-1990 engraved in it.
I asked Charlie about this the other day. I was doing my homework in the Great Hall, and he came in and sat before the cold fireplace for a while, staring at it, nursing a drink. Of course he was drinking water. Charlie is the only person I know who can sit drinking a cocktail of plain water while staring entranced at a fire that isn't there. I did not greet him, nor did he speak to me. I've learned to leave him be, when he's in a quiet mood, and so we spend a lot of time together, not talking, and I do not know whether he is enjoying my company in a quiet way or actually ignoring the fact that he isn't alone. Anyway, after a while, I asked "why a Chinese dogwood?" and he raised his eyes a fraction, without quite coming out of his...trance, for lack of a better word, and answered without looking at me.
"My mother liked them."
I nodded, and let him be again.
[Next Post: Monday, July 12: the Spirit of Reason]