This project will become an ongoing legacy for the community…* -Mary Abma
More than a tree-spirit chill down my spine! Sarnia-Lambton’s Ash Tree Memorial Performance commenced with haunting woodwind sounds from Kelly Kiyoshk’s flute. Handmade baskets crafted from black ash trees sat on a table beside him.
I shivered with the other performers.
Mary Abma, a local contemporary artist and organizer for the event, stood at the outdoor microphone, apologized for the unexpected drop in temperature, and warmly welcomed the crowd that gathered at the Seaway Kiwanis Pavilion in Sarnia’s Canatara Park.
Around her, the Carolinian forest raised its eyebrows. April’s weather had turned shivering cold. Even a winter coat, woolen hat, and gloves couldn’t protect the mourners from the unwelcomed winds off Lake Huron. A Canadian goose flew by, honked in protest.
My fingers and emotions numbed. I waited for the rain-tears to fall but the clouds held them tight inside a grey blanket.
A few days earlier at the Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery (JNAAG) in Sarnia, Abma spoke about her new exhibition Signposts & Traces: Ash Tree Memorial Trail.
“In January 2015, 300 dead trees were cut at Canatara Park”, she said as a slide show of snow-laced ash limbs, stumps, and zig-zagged patterned logs silenced the crowd in attendance.
“In Lambton County, 24 percent of our canopy was ash…37 percent of the total volume of wood in woodlots was ash….”
Almost all of those trees were destroyed by the emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive beetle from Asia. The destruction continues to spread to new areas in Canada and the United States, often as the result of humans moving beetle-infested firewood.