Planting and Painting
I recently read Charlotte Gill’s book, “Eating Dirt”. The author’s vivid descriptions and attention to details made me aware of memories I didn’t even know I had. I treeplanted for about 12 seasons – doing the math my husband and I figured I may have planted over a million trees. Treeplanting was a means for me to paint because I had from October to February off.
Treeplanting and painting have their similarities. They both are primarily a solo activity – you must rely on your own self-motivation to do well (treeplanting is piecework and I guess painting is too). In both occupations you must work past many barriers such as; fatigue or lack of motivation. Often with painting you have the added element of fear or the inner critic that you have to contend with. In both jobs, it helps if you have a competitive nature, with others or yourself, to alleviate some of the boredom which is inevitable spending long hours alone.
Treeplanting showed me how much I was capable of if I put my mind to it. You might get dropped off for the entire day by a helicopter on the side of a cliff in sideways sleet with absolutely no cover (you are in a clearcut) and your key survival tactic is to never stop moving. You feel like if you can do this, you can do anything.
I am grateful for my experience with treeplanting to have given me so many memories, friends (and a husband) and to have taken me so many remote places. It helped teach me that so much is possible if you are efficient in your thinking and movements and simply work your butt off.
There is an exhibit on treeplanting called ‘Bend, Plant, Move Along’: The Culture of Tree Planting at the Campbell River Museum (470 Island Hwy – at 5th Ave) which features the history of treeplanting until the present day. It is concurrent with Charlotte Gill’s writers residency at the Haig Brown House. The exhibit is on til July 1st. Museum hours are 10am – 5pm everyday (summer hours).
Image: “First Run”, this acrylic painting was commissioned by a fellow treeplanting tribesman about 10 years ago