(click on pictures to enlarge)
On a recent visit to Vancouver, I came across a totem pole in the Van Dusen Gardens. Totem poles can serve as monuments, memorials or sign posts and often have stories carved onto them.
This one was commissioned by the Botanical Garden Association in 1976 and describes the origin of the Black Bear crest of the Orca clan of indigenous people. The story is that a long time ago, a man was transformed into a black bear and lived among them (bottom showing bear carrying a human face). After some time, he returned to his people and a healer helped him become human again (top showing man holding the healer). The bears continued to help him and his people so they took the bear as their crest. The carving is beautiful, as you can see, and is done out of a single massive trunk, traditionally red cedar.
A few days later, we visited Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island where some of the red cedars and Douglas firs are over 200 feet high and some are 800 years old. Tall and majestic with enormous trunks, it does feel like a cathedral. It was awesome and we noticed that people spoke in low voices as if they all felt that they were in a place of worship. It is sad to think of us humans decimating forests like this to make a profit from the wood. Thankfully, pressure to protect the environment has slowed this down on the island.
Back in Ontario, I was in Norfolk county which also has beautiful Carolinian forests consisting of Tulip trees, Eastern Flowering Dogwood, Sassafras and Chestnut, amongst others. Not as majestic as Cathedral Grove but impressive all the same and beautiful to walk in. The more you look the more you see, birds, butterflies, frogs and wild flowers.
Trees that have fallen over provide a home for insects, moss and mushrooms in season. This beautiful coral mushroom was growing on a dead tree stump and is edible.
Forests and trees have been a source of artistic inspiration for many from paintings, the carving of totem poles to wood carvings of various sorts. but we do use. I saw a contemporary art sculpture of a tree trunk done by Marguerite Larmand of Norfolk county. She used the natural form of the tree to illustrate that male and female aspects exist in a single being.
The piece represented a tree trunk cut in two halves and she spoke of actually portraying her own duality. Hence the female half is strong while the male half is less so. Unfortunately, the male half was destroyed while the sculpture was being moved and she now only has the female half. It sits in the hallway of her house and is very striking. You’re probably wondering (as I was!) what the weak male half looked like. Luckily, there was a photo of the piece when it was displayed in a gallery so I took a photograph to show you. An impressive piece of work. Enjoy!