Every year Nova Scotia sends a tree to Boston, in thanks for Boston's quick response to the Halifax Explosion in 1917, landing here within 48 hours with supplies and doctors and nurses. This tree-giving tradition has been going on for 40 years now. I only learned of it recently and I thought it was a very poetic and moving story and so I wrote the following poem.
On a sunny day this week we drove to the Acadian village (well, it was a road more than a village..) of Central Argyle to read this for the schoolkids and the adults there, the endearing old couple who donated one of their trees, the crew responsible for transporting it to Boston and a smattering of dignitaries. I did not wear a suit and tie. After speeches, a story and this poem, we all stood and watched it being cut down. And I thought, "This is weird, gathering to observe the death of a tree." But, the ceremony was full of heart, as was the crowd, as is the gesture. So many things in life are bizarre and complicated. I was sad for this tree and also happy; it was a fuzzy sort of day.
You tall, tall tree.
"Hey Boston, what'd ya get for Christmas this year?"
"A big green tree with needles sharp and scent so clear"
"What about in 2010?"
"I also got a tall tree then!"
And so goes the tradition.
Boston and Nova Scotia are friends
Halifax and Boston forged a link
way back when
tragedy struck and Boston stepped up
we owe so much to them.
And so let us present... a tree.
How beautiful thy branches reach
roots deep into the ground
heartbeats pulse a subtle sound
which is like wind over needles
which is like scurrying animals
which is like home
which is like breath
which is like "thank you for the life you give, you tall tall tree"
As life is given so it is taken away
tree chopped from its standing place
'cause it has another role to play
The trut-trut ride to Boston may be arduous
tossed on to the back of a flat bed truck
but once it gets there
oh the fanfare
when it goes back up
Its new role is to be by many eyes beholden
spry and noble
strung with lights and stature hopeful
it will be statuesque in the town square
and it will be there
to stand for something global
And how many trees get to do that?
I mean, they are gorgeous in the forest
sun streams in like an angel's chorus
cacophony of critters and birds and noises
the canopy, the curtain, and the perfect floor for it
So, it's not like this tree was lacking any joyfulness
but oh, now the joy it's gonna give!
Moreover, the memory that it'll represent
all still and strong like that
to recall how Boston helped Halifax
after it exploded.
It is green and vibrant to offset the homes on fire
it is tall like the flames that ate the church spires
it is decorated like war vets
and like war vets it is likely spent and tired
In 1917 when two ships collided needlessly
and then exploded and rained fire all over the city
which then caused a tsunami
and citizens spiralled into panic
wires and telegrams
sent out to explain it
the news and devastation
and all this before the blizzard even started
Well, Boston responded
and they did so quickly
doctors and supplies and generosity
a show of humanity
We are both port cities and we know the harsh of weather
we are both east coast and we know the cold of winter
if you take away one border we are not so different
and even with it we are in this world together
I can't remember when my roof blew off and I had no shelter
when I lost my limbs or my family members
in a blast so big it shattered windows whole cities over
but my grandfather probably felt it from his home in rural Nova Scotia
and Halifax feels it still in the buildings no longer
in the sadness carried over
in the bonds it formed then and has still with those who so quickly responded.
And so, in thanks, we send a tree to Boston
Its many branches stand for doctors and nurses
its timely arrival for the answered call, so urgent
the scent from its needles to replace all the places burning
the eyes that will gaze upon it in appreciation and joy instead of pain and worry
we deem this gift of nature to be worthy
as thanks for their duty
this tree has honour seeping like sap through its veins
our veins, your veins are deserving
It's a thing of beauty
evergreen from our soil, tree farmers toil, the delivery
the well wishes, it's pure poetry, this gift giving
And we won't see it in Boston
but we'll know it's there
tall tree in the square getting oohed and aah-ed at
cleaning the air
for the holidays
and when the time comes
to take it down again
this tree will carry with it all the energy we've sent
all the gazes from Bostonians
all the birds, the squirrels that sat upon it
all the intention of good natured, kind heartedness
It will carry all of this
back into the ground
when it becomes dust and ash like the buildings that once burned down
this tree goes with pride and thanks
recognition for the help then, the sacrifice that everybody gave
If a tree falls in the forest will anybody hear it?
When a tree falls today and gets driven away to the Boston states
let's send a mighty cheer for it.