In 1979 I graduated from high school and was both physically and mentally ready to embark on an adventure to the Yukon. However, such an expedition needed a lot of money for provisions and “survival” equipment (namely the Winchester rifle, expedition sleeping bag and down jacket good for temperatures below -60 degrees Celsius).
That autumn I became a construction worker during the week, and a busboy/dishwasher in a restaurant on the weekends. I made a little money, but living in Vancouver was eating into it fast.
Then in the spring of 1980 I was hired by a tree planting company. The idea of a job in the middle of nowhere, making good money, was interesting and more importantly, I could take my dog Pretor!
For several months I worked with a handful of other tree planters, on a rugged coastline of British Columbia. Learning how to plant seedlings wasn’t hard. Over time, I mastered the technique of skilfully digging a small hole, placing the seedling in it, then pacing exactly three metres to the next spot, and repeating this… ten thousand times a day!
Soon Pretor got interested in digging holes, and got busy digging them for me. However, he never mastered the three metre distance spacing.We had to have a serious talk about it. His real contribution began when he started peeing on each and every freshly planted tree. “To encourage the growth” – he barked. After all, he was a hard working dog!
I witnessed first hand, the rape of the land that the logging industry leaves behind. The pristine coast line was scarred by the ugly patches of fallen forest, extending hundreds of kilometres. The tree planter’s job was to revegetate, (and in a way), justify the relentless devastation that progress leaves in its wake.
By the summer of 1980 I had “loads of money”, plenty of food, good and reliable equipment, and a ride to the Yukon with my BC Quest teacher Jim and his wife Pam.
Excerpt from my journal, 1980 Vancouver, Canada
Fifty years later Padma and I bought a patch of land in Australia. It had previously been native forest, but was subsequently razed for farming. Thats where my tree planting skills came into good use. For 7 years we planted acres of native vegetation, including eucalypts, she-oaks, wattles and native shrubs and grasses. Some of the reforested areas included European oaks, silver birches and maples paying homage to the landscapes of our homelands in Poland and New England.
“Crowned in Glory”, shows off in a grove of sunflowers.
Excerpt from my journal, 2010 Carlsruhe, Australia