Chapter Forty-four Alder
Above the Gravel Pit, oil on canvas, 1937, 77.2 x 102.3 cm. Location: Vancouver Art Gallery, VAG 42.3.30.
© Vancouver Art Gallery
The sweep of hillside had been mutilated. In a day, virgin forest had been ravished,
five-, six-hundred-year old trees hacked off indecently, their stumps horrific headstones.
Some splinters were left upright where the trunks had wrenched and come apart. Screamers,
she called them, imagining the gunshot crack of the great trees splitting, that awful
final sway, the thunderous groan, the crashing down, the executioners with saws and
axes stepping back to brace themselves for the answering tremble of the ground.
It was a graveyard left exposed to heal itself with the help of seeds and wind
and rain and time, daring to grow just to be ravaged again in some dim future.
The short new alders, the first trees to come alive again, spread their toothed
leaves above Juneberry shrubs and mangled stumps, preparing the way for cedars
and firs to follow. Whitman's words came ringing: The smallest sprout shows
there is really no death.