The job of rebuilding the hotel foundation wall is progressing but more slowly than we hoped. The slow-down was unavoidable, thanks to (really, no thanks to) the snow that fell this week.
The snow is attractive, no doubt, but it has come much too early.
The early snowfall is one part of the unusual weather we’ve been having recently. (Is unusual weather the new normal? Unfortunately, I fear it is.) Just over a week ago we had hurricane-strength winds that knocked out power lines all over Quebec, leaving many without power for three or four days. We were fortunate and never lost power but the ferocious winds blew down trees all over the property. The worst loss was a very tall pine tree that was the centrepiece of one part of Timelines, the trail at Glen Villa that explores questions about time, memory and our relationship to the land.
I discovered the tree at least ten years ago when scouting out the route for a new trail. As soon as I saw it, I knew it would become a feature of the trail. And so it did.
The tall pine and the clearing in the woods we created around it were the climax of a section of Timelines called In Transit/En Route. It became the gnomon, or pointer, on a sundial and its shadow hitting numbered posts that circle the clearing marked the hour.
We installed the posts in 2011 along with a straight-backed bench built like a pine box. We cut the words In Transit/En Route into the wooden seat to underline the message. (I wrote about the origins of In Transit/En Route in blog posts you can read here, here and here.)
Several years ago we added a fallen tree with a plaque to announce the Sundial itself.
The passage of time was marked not only by the shadow of the tree but also by the presence of natural decay — and by the evidence that woodpeckers and other birds were going after the tasty insects in the rotting wood. It became clearer month by month that the tree wouldn’t last forever.
Nor did it. Weakened by age and by the depth and number of the holes in the trunk, last week in the storm, the tree hit the dust. Or the leaf mulch, if you prefer.
Amazingly, the trunk fell between a tree and the four o’clock post, damaging nothing but itself. I could have measured its length but didn’t think to do that before we cut it up for firewood.
The tree broke close to the ground and the decay at the base made it obvious that even without the high winds, it would have toppled soon.
Losing the tree makes me sad but its loss presents an opportunity. Shall I replace it or leave the sundial without a pointer, making the idea more abstract? If I replace the dead pine, what shall I use? I could plant a tiny tree and wait for it to grow. I could add the trunk of a tree that we cut down, leaving the bark or stripping it off. I could add a post, taller than those that mark the hour, and that post could be made of wood or of metal. The post could be upright as the pine tree was, or it could be angled as pointers on sundials usually are.
And what about the black tubing that marks the circumference of the circle? Shall I leave it or replace it with some other material?
Lots of choices mean that I’ll be doing lots of thinking in the months ahead. What do you think I should do? I welcome your ideas.