43 Trees

My sister-in-law is an amazing woman. After raising her two children with her second husband, starting her own events design business, selling it and working for a nationally known company, she left work and went back to finally get her art degree.  The woman does not NEED an art degree, she is already an amazing artist with a keen design eye. However, it’s a dream that she has held onto for many years and the time seemed ripe. (I forgot to mention that she has been primary caretaker for my mother-in-law for several years as well, a thankless, exhausting job on the best days.)

So when she and her husband John started posting something about a joint venture called 43 Trees on facebook, I was intrigued. I wasn’t too sure about it, but I understood it to be something about how many trees in one of their local parks was affected by Hurricane Sandy last year. It occurred to me that this was a good moment for my husband and I to run up to NJ (a three hour drive) and attend the opening of the exhibit.

We arrived at the Municipal building in Edison last night to find that the exhibit was hung in the hallway outside the mayor’s office. Said Mayor was not only in attendance but presented John and Deborah on a video that would be aired on local TV. (If you live in that area and see the video, look behind the podium and you will see my husband and me.)

It turns out, the number 43 comes from 43 years of Earth Day. The trees (or their remainders) were photographed by Deborah and John (who went back to school and got his own photography degree a few years ago). Each tree was then named and assigned a writer to write a poem or story to go along with that tree. The photos and writings were then framed and hung on the walls.  In addition, Deb created some wonderful sculptures out of materials she found in the woods at the park and displayed them on pedestals around the hallway.

It was a wonderful way to honor the trees (wow, I feel like the Lorax at this moment). If you live in the Edison, NJ area (or are passing through on your way from point A to point B) I invite you to go to 100 Municipal Boulevard until January of 2014 to view it in person. You can even take a walk in the park and see the site of each tree. If you are elsewhere on this planet, go to their website and look at all 43 of the trees and read their words. I will share my favorite here on this post.

Charlotte of The 43 Trees Project
Charlotte, From French Stock
August 1923
I’ve tried not to fall but what can I say? It’s inevitable? That this is the way we all end? I’ll hold on a bit, but then I’ll be just like Jesse over there, both of us on our backs, helpless. Then we’ll be the past. We’ll decompose, return to the earth. If it hadn’t been this storm, it would’ve been the next. And if not that, sooner or later, there’d be a change in outlook, a difference in values. Someone would’ve said the upkeep was too much, more land is needed for more housing stock, build a ball field, even a parking lot. Torn down, roots ripped right out, plowed under. At least this way, I can hang on for a week or two, a month if I’m lucky. I can watch my own demise and that of my friends and family.

I’ve been here for some time. Over ninety years, if I’m right. I got here from Pennsylvania, near Altoona. Carried on a breeze; yes, a breeze. And before that, from Acadia, up north. The stock originated in France. Near the border with Spain. Some time in the 1600s my forebears were carried over unknown by the Catholics, mixed in with some grain. Not just any Catholics, they were Jesuits, who’d declared they’d come to conquer souls. And we know how that went.

But imagine that! I’m French, and end up in New Jersey. Strange how we get to where we do, how the world turns, the events of history colliding against each other to create what seems like order. In the end, no matter how or why, we find the years have passed. And then, what? On our backs, or close to it, hanging on for one last look, a few more sunrises, a couple more breezes lighting on our remaining limbs. Only hoping one of them carries some part away, so we might somehow live, continue. Maybe regenerate.

What else can we believe in?

Written by Mauro Altamura


9 thoughts on “43 Trees

    1. I thought of you today. Your post about fire preparedness really resounded with me. I am struck by the similarities between your world, Gallivanta’s in New Zealand after the earthquake and the trees in a little park in NJ. Nature can bring about change faster than anything else…

      1. It certainly can..and even after the immediate disaster the change continues..after Black Saturday..i went up t a town hit like a nuclear bomb called Kinglake..it was winter..people living in makeshift caravans..it was a forest of black sticks…some color popping up but black and ash and so depressing..the winter rain then hit the town with mudslides…these people ironically had no fire wood for heating …so many people dead and the town still carrying on as best as it could..will never forget these images..

        1. Those are some awful images to hold…and even more awful to live through. My heart goes out to people who survive disasters like that, there is no way to prepare for how something like that will change your life.

          1. I agree..so many divorces since this event,also domestic violence went up,PTSD causing terrible problems,children in particular..i will do a post on some of the unknown effects on emotions from disasters..even for people who like us never lost a house but the smell of smoke and the sight of burnoffs makes me cry..brings it all back..

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