Paint flowing into the demarcated tracks of wood boring beetles is like tattoos written on a body, calligraphy of a journey from larval to adult. ‘Limb’ references W.S. Merwin’s prose poem ‘Unchopping a Tree’, prescribing how to begin the arduous task of putting a tree back together. “Start with the leaves, the small twigs, and the nests that have been shaken, ripped, or broke off by the fall; these must be gathered and attached once again to their respective places.” ‘Limb’ mirrors these tasks. Reassembling this vine maple that grew in the yard of my family home speaks of irrevocable loss. Sewing through the rings of a tree is to sew through time itself, the tree’s memory.
There is a small collection of photographs my grandfather took with his Kodak bellows camera in the 1930s and 40s. Printed on heavy card stock, these photographs remind me of old postcards. In amongst the family portraits are two sepia toned images of what appear to be early Vancouver landscapes. One depicts two men and a tent in the foreground surrounded by massive trunks of Western red cedars. Instinct is to turn the photograph over, half expecting to find a faded message informing the recipient of their whereabouts and idle thoughts. Settlers, as these, came to the west coast of British Columbia to push back the barrier of the forest, to tame the wildness. The deliberate removal of forest remains one of the most significant ways in which humans modify the environment. Yet, in this province, ideas embodied by dwelling and forests, wilderness or even a solitary tree are ingrained deep within our identity. Having grown up amidst towering trees, I cannot separate the two.