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Shovels & Wheelbarrows
-Part 1

Certainty knows no bounds when it comes to understanding my grandfather’s time with the soil, his shovels and his wheelbarrow.

This was indeed a man who handled his shovels as if a prize on a shelf, a badge to shine on his shirt. His wheelbarrow was a piece of magic, the size of which seemed far too large for its travel in my grandpa’s car trunk. But those gleaming shovels, clean and free of dirt, and that larger than life wheelbarrow, seemed to go with him everywhere he and his Olds ’98 traveled.

I imagine that coming from Ireland, from a land of rocks, and hills, and farming – with green misty views reaching to infinity – that he grew up with the land in him. So it shouldn’t surprise me to wake in the morning (usually some Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m.) to find my grandpa in our backyard. He would be planting his second –or perhaps even third– blue spruce (another thing I am certain was his favorites).

My brothers and I would hear his wide deep digging shovel grip the gravely dirt – then would come the drag of soil to the surface – the thud of the earth meeting the mound he had formed. We would lie in our beds half awake, half asleep, knowing our grandfather was doing the thing he was most alive doing…digging in the land. More importantly, our backyard!

My Dad and Saturday Mornings
-Part 2

Now mind you, it’s a great thing to be so connected to the land, but it’s another not to tell someone you’re feeling connected to “their land,” “their yard.” Oh yes, of this I am also certain — there were days that my dad would have loved a notice posted of:
“INTENT TO EXCAVATE YOUR YARD FOR TREE PLANTING.”

Collectively us kid’s, we would know our time of half-awake and half-asleep had ended — and when fully awake had arrived — when we heard my parent’s bedroom door open. First would come the light step of my mom in the hallway heading towards the kitchen, minutes later we could smell the sweetness of cinnamon rolls and icing baking. I am convinced now that this was my mom’s way of signaling a kind of “chore-warning.”

Confirmation of this alert was given when my parent’s bedroom door opened for the second time. My dad had a way of opening their bedroom door – which pushed a gust of wind under each of ours – along with a way of stepping out into the hallway that declared a litany of chores that lie ahead on any given Saturday.

Door Opening Sounds
-Part 3

There existed several proclamations within each of my dad’s door opening wind gust:

1. The “let’s clean the garage” – door opening sound
(of which the stories are so great in length & quantity – they would best be left for another day and another book entirely of its own).

2. The arbitrary, “let’s all wake-up cause it feels too late to still be asleep” – door opening sound.

3. The “you stayed out to late last night, so get your butt outta bed” – door opening sound.

4. The “let’s have a party and invite lots of people – so get up and clean every dish & glass, mow the lawn, wash the floors, clean the garage, and oh by the way, let’s redecorate” – door opening sound.

and of course…

5. The gust of wind and sound combination of: “your grandpa’s here planting trees and I didn’t know anything about it…but you’re all gonna get up and help – before he digs up all the trees we’ve already planted and moves them” – door opening sound.

Us
– Final part

Each of these particular door-opening signals would be followed up with the triple knock on each of our bedroom doors and the somewhat military-ish delivery of “rise – n – shine.”

Indeed as time has passed, the years have provided me with rich recollections. There were important messages there for me – this was a lesson in learning about my grandfather’s time, which created my father’s time, which in turn r-e-i-n-c-a-r-n-a-t-e-d into something totally different in each of my five brothers and my own time. And in the end, regardless of our bodies calling for sleep, it was tree-planting time; for my grandfather, with my grandfather, about his love of shovels & wheelbarrows, of trees, the soil, and most importantly us.

Yes, of this I am truly certain, it was about his time – with us.

Short stories written by Linda Marie Barrett
(Submitted in honor of her grandfather Michael R. Barrett, who arrived in the United States of America from Castleisland, Ireland – via Liverpool, England, UK, — aboard the ship Cedric on February 28, 1920.)

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Photo by Pamela Paulsrud

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Contributed by Rosie Kelly

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Contributed by Jane Rae Brown

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Contributed by Joanna Zdzienicka

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Photo by Pamela Paulsrud

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Contributed by Diane Jerry Gold, Mundeline, IL

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This is my tribute to a beautiful Siberian Elm, who held me from nothingness simply by her presence. Storms have taken limbs and there is little left of her once magnificent shape. But she forever reminds me of the power of all living beings to calm and connect us to one another. This is simply the power and the gift of life. Each of us has the ability to contain another, and what glory that brings to our world.

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Contributed by Jeri Hobart, Iowa City, Iowa

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With this project I’ve heard thousands of tree stories—most likely told for the first and perhaps only time.  I’ve heard touching stories of trees being planted in memory of a loved one, of how a tree saved a life by stopping a car out of control from plunging into a lake, and of course I’ve heard about the magic of spending hours as a young child hanging out in their branches. I suppose it’s obvious that I love hearing these stories of trees and how we’re connected to them—how they’ve influenced our lives.  I’ve always felt honored to be a part of this storytelling moment in time, yet sometimes secretly wishing that there were some way to capture these precious memories being told—so that others too might be inspired to remember their deep connections to trees.

My wish was answered when Dawn Bennett introduced me to Beth Barbush, an artist, photographer, and story collector. Beth is currently living in Cambridge, Maryland working for the Maryland Humanities council developing public dialogues and programs around agricultural and environmental issues. We spoke a few times on the phone and  finally had the pleasure of meeting at the Chicago Botanic Garden where this collaboration began. Although she seemed inspired and eager to collect these stories, I wondered about the challenge she had in taking on this project having just moved to Maryland—but as the days and weeks wore on was delighted in hearing her experiences with others in her quest. (Now I’m secretly hoping she’ll capture her own story sometime soon!) It’s a delight to have these recorded interviews from the Allegheny Mountains join Treewhispers . Be sure to allow extra time when you visit. I know you’ll want to hear them too.

Photo by Pamela Paulsrud

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Many thanks to Dawn Bennett for inviting the CBG (Chicago Botanic Garden) staff to stroll through Treewhispers on Valentine’s Day. It was so nice to meet those who stopped by and intriguing as always, to hear their tree stories!  In addition to the sweets Dawn provided, handmade paper rounds were shared courtesy of the Girl Scouts who were recently making paper at the Garden and  papermaker, Andrea Peterson.  Andrea often donates rounds to the project to include those might not get around to making paper—but have a personal tree story to share. It’s a great collaboration of sorts! (I’m secretly hoping it will spur the recipeints on to get their hands wet in paper pulp someday.)

I’m looking forward to stringing the CBG tree—stay tuned!

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Photos by Pamela Paulsrud

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Contributed by Marlene Pomeroy, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

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Several years ago a hurricane came very far inland in North Carolina and my parents lost many trees they loved very much, including a large black walnut. I made a table top out of one large slab and paper out of some of the bark, curtains for my house and a book for my father. A small mill operator was able to come to the land and mill many of the large trees on site into lumber that is stacked and ready to build with. Someday they hope to build a house with it.

Contributed by Ann Silverman, Columbus OH

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With my involvement in Treewhispers over the last eleven years I’ve heard thousands of tree stories — only a small fraction of them recorded here. When someone hears of the project I often inquire if they might have a tree story. Most don’t — or at least they don’t think they do — until I simply ask if they’ve ever climbed a tree or planted a tree or had a favorite tree… It’s quite wonderful to watch as they suddenly connect to that memory — truly, their face lights up, their body language changes and the stories spill forth. If someone is standing near, it often sparks a story in them. It’s been a gift for me to hear these stories, to witness the exchange — to see these shifts.

I’ve also been gifted in hearing stories that are prefaced as “out of the ordinary” — the storyteller often remaining anonymous if they’re willing to share it on the site. I wonder sometimes how out of the ordinary these stories really are — if it’s simply a matter of stopping, paying attention — connecting energetically.

Please enjoy this most recent story contribution. My heartfelt thanks for these stories, ordinary and otherwise!

Have to share my experience with you that happened at the Botanical Gardens…I went up to a redwood tree (quite large) and leaned my back against it…almost immediately I felt such immense power in that tree…amazing…from deep in the earth…and felt the heartbeat.

Anonymous

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