Marianne Van Osch (Patrick Davies, 100 Mile Free Press photo)

Marianne Van Osch (Patrick Davies, 100 Mile Free Press photo)

VAN OSCH: Saving a tree can be a risky endeavour in winter

Marianne Van Osch’s column to the Free Press

The hill that leads up to the cemetery, seemed to loom over the road below.

A steep knoll halfway up the hill blocked any view of the white pickets of the cemetery gates, where the road ends. Near the top of the knoll, I turned around to admire the stunning panorama to the east of the Canim Lake hills and the snow-capped mountains in the distance. On this day, the sky was Cariboo blue with a frosty haze here and there. Ah, it’s good to be out and about, I thought.

At the top of the knoll, a thin birch bent over the road, its small tip touching dog tracks in a reversal of roles, as if the tree was sniffing where the dog had been. The tree’s slender spine was bow-shaped under a strip of heavy snow. I explained to the birch that I would be able to ease its painful situation.

My walking stick, a stout length of fir, had a small crook at the top. This fit neatly under the tree’s delicate tip. A soft shake, a shower of snow into the hood of my coat which I had forgotten to put up, and the tree began to straighten its back, as stiffly and slowly as an old man rising from a too-low chair. More shaking, more plops on my head, no problem, no fancy hair shape to worry about, and the tree stretched its back a little further, inch by inch.

Then I thought that if I threw the stick at the branches that were out of reach and still piled with snow, I’d be able to dislodge the clumps further up and speed up this process. Away went the stick. It flicked off a small clump of snow and continued on up and over the tree and down into the snowbank where it sank out of sight. It was supposed to have hit the tree and come right back down.

I thought well this will be easy. I would kneel up on the side of the snowbank which was about four feet high with a smooth crest at the top. From there, I’d simply lean over and reach into the snow, into the deep indentation where the stick had disappeared. I knelt against the bank. My knees plummeted into soft, mushy snow and I shot forward into the snowbank. The top of it collapsed around me.

And there was the stick, straight ahead. It was just a matter of crawling in a bit further. Getting out would be a cinch. I grabbed the stick, thought I’d use it as a lever to lift myself up and out of the snow. I put a bit of weight on it, it snapped and I shot forward deeper into the snow. At that point, I put myself in reverse and backed out onto the road, covered with snow, dragging the broken stick with me. The tree bent over above me with a concerned look.

Well, why not give it a last try. I could at least relieve the tree’s burden a bit more if I could knock off just one more clump of snow. I fired the broken stick at the overhanging branches. Like a boomerang, it fired itself right back at me. I ducked and it hit me on the head.

I turned my back on that hapless, ungrateful tree and headed down the hill, battered, snow-covered and wet.

Halfway down the knoll, I met the grader plowing its way up the hill. I turned to watch and sure enough, with the gentlest of nudges from the grader, all of the remaining snow slid right off the birch’s trunk and the tree sprang smartly to attention.

I can see that tree from my window. It’s up there, bent again under fresh snow. Not so much this time. Not so much that I’ll bother with it.

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