Updated: Apr 15
My life is dominated by cedar trees. Big, tall, untamed cedar trees. The house in which I grew up, a rented house in the west end of Hamilton, had a small backyard, bounded on four sides by the house, a frost fence between us and our neighbours, a ramshackle garage, and a hedge that separated our little yard from the sidewalk. And, standing like a silent sentinel over the little path that led from sidewalk to back porch, a majestic cedar that swept skyward, its solid base anchored to the ground and three separate trunks rising tall, producing a myriad of branches, interlacing with each other to form an almost impenetrable mass. Only the birds could make their way through. We desperately wanted to climb that cedar, my siblings and I, but even the smallest of us (me) couldn’t get through its army of branches.
Forty years after my family finally left that house, when I moved with my own family to Fredericton in 2008, we bought a bungalow on the hill. It too was protected by a three-pillared cedar, this even more unruly than the one that dominated my childhood. Its branches spread wide, covering half the gravel drive and much of the front yard; with its massive height (15 metres tall if it was a centimetre), it dominated the skyline of the neighbourhood. And, due to years of neglect, it was clearly dying. If that wasn’t enough, our newly adopted cedar also seemed to upset many of our neighbours. On almost our first day of possession of this home, someone from a nearby street strode resolutely up the drive (the right side of the drive, of course, since the cedar’s branches covered the left side), looked us straight in the eye and said, without so much as a “How do you do?”: “You’re the new owners? Well, I hope you’re going to do something about this godawful cedar tree! It makes your house the eyesore of the neighbourhood”. Angered by the aggression, we kept that cedar for about five more years, even as it grew sicker and began to falter. We eventually had to have it removed, as much to put it out of its misery as to address the danger it had become, but, as the tree guys brought it down and cut it into manageable pieces, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit sad at the loss of this connection to my childhood.