The Girl, the Ash, the Plantation… and Wilding - theHumm February 2020

The Girl, the Ash, the Plantation… and Wilding - theHumm February 2020

By Susie Osler

The Girl

She used to sing as she walked past and up the hill, to the rock where she would sit, looking back towards me, and I towards her. We grew up together. She’d walk by me with her dogs in the beginning, when I was barely noticeable, then years later ride by with friends on horses. Then later still, under the spell of boyfriends, she’d walk past, oblivious to my outstretched branches. Now she has a husband. I stood by that year, watching their guests arrive on their wedding day — a river of polka dots and colours flowing down their laneway in front of me.

When she walks out alone, she stops sometimes to listen and gaze towards things that catch her attention. Some days this happily includes me — especially now that I have grown tall and sturdy. And especially in springtime when, perched in my highest branches, towhee or grosbeak sing. Sometimes she speaks joyful notes to us all. Sounds or no sounds, I can feel the warmth of her heart.

But lately, when she passes by I see her looking at me strangely. Her heart now feels heavy. She touched me one day not long ago — at the spot where two men tattooed an orange symbol I don’t understand on my trunk. She uttered something that sounded like a prayer, or maybe a sorrowful lullaby. Something feels wrong.

The Ash

For the past few months, each time I leave the driveway — on foot or in the car — I cannot avoid seeing a big H tattooed in orange spray paint on the trunk of a lovely adolescent ash tree. There is a moment in a tree’s development when it begins to come into its own and says “I’m here!” That is the case for this lovely white ash. It grows nicely at the foot of a rocky outcropping on the other side of the road, with sumac, oak saplings and honeysuckle gathered around it. It’s a handsome tree, with a presence that has now become integral to the place. But sadly that orange H spells the imminent end for the tree, as it has grown inconveniently close to the hydro lines and shall be felled come spring.

I’m noticing that I’ve become increasingly sensitive to just how extensively we humans (myself included) bend nature to suit our needs — even in places that we call “natural” or even “wild”. From forest plantations to hiking trails and parks, we “get back to nature” with our cars, boats, RVs, mountain bikes, snowmobiles, ATVs, pets, and our abundant gear. Nature has become a comfortable and well-worn backdrop for our human activity, for our pleasure, for our selfies, at least as long as she behaves and looks beautiful. Amazingly, she has put up with our efforts to control and contain her for a very long time. But it is becoming apparent that this is changing. What are the costs of control — to human and beyond-human life?

The Plantation

Roughly thirty years ago, a rough swath of well-worn pasture was planted with white pine — one of three such sections planted simultaneously as part of a Managed Forest tax break scheme being offered by the Ministry of Natural Resources. When I first moved here almost twenty years ago and was learning to use a chain saw, the first trails I made were walking paths through these young plantations, made simply by limbing the dead branches from the trunks. I loved opening pathways through the enveloping forest — the dimness and muffled soft sound created by the rows of young pines evoked scenarios from fairy tales — a sort of magical and liminal space that the imagination could step into and emerge from.

But now, after two decades of spending time with the native forest that surrounds these plantations, it is difficult to duck into the dark infantry-like rows of these sections without a twinge of dismay. What is immediately apparent is the stark lack of plant diversity. Linear grids of staid and struggling pines line up like disheveled but well-behaved children living out their lives seated in rows of desks, rather than exploring the dynamic edges of diverse, symbiotic communities. Everything about these plantations speaks sadly of efficiency; a one-size-fits-all mentality and a certain “get-er-doneness” — all of it designed and managed for the benefit of humans.


Recently, I read an article about a woman in Ireland who is “rewilding” a small pine plantation where she and her husband live. For several years, she has used video, photography and writing to respond poetically to what is unfolding on her land as a result of their interventions within the plantation. Ash seedlings have starred in her story as the first succession tree species to arise spontaneously in response to increased light levels in places that have been opened up. To many, her efforts may not look like “art”, but in this time of ecological upheaval the world is calling for us to inhabit our lives, our work, and our places differently — in ways that honour, attend to, and serve life with greater reciprocity. This woman’s art practice to me is holistic — a weaving together of ecology, creativity, and a deep ongoing relationship to place in a manner that is refreshingly slow, quiet, and unpretentious. I believe this is a way of doing art that is entirely suited to these times.

Many folk around the world are now heeding the call to rewild with all sorts of small but similarly soulful actions. Here on the farm, my partner and I have begun our own gesture towards “wilding” our plantations by opening pockets of light within the pines to stimulate the emergence of dormant succession species that have been waiting patiently for the right conditions to arise for germination. It is early days yet, but to our delight we recently realized that the few young whips we’ve found sporadically growing up amidst the pines are ash. For me, their presence — in spite of the many challenges facing ash trees today — is a sweet affirmation of the incredible tenacity and generosity of life.


In memoriam – Dr. Bill Buttle - theHumm February 2020

By Kris Riendeau

I honestly can’t remember when Bill Buttle first started contributing Artbeat cartoons to theHumm, but I think it was some time within our first year of publishing. So for the past two decades (give or take a year or two), his humorous take on the world of art and music has had pride of place here on page 2. On Sunday, January 19, Bill passed away peacefully in Arnprior at the age of 79, leaving behind grieving family and friends as well as legions of Artbeat fans throughout......


Charles Spratt A Four-Decade Love Affair - theHumm February 2020

By Sally Hansen

Art… and Soul

It is a true gift to discover a passion that endures and rewards for the rest of your life. Charles Spratt is grateful that he has had forty years to enjoy what it took him forty years to realize — he is an artist.

Interviewing artists is always an adventure. When he ushered me into the basement of the tastefully appointed home he shares with his wife Pat in Stittsville, I was astonished. Spratt’s man cave is unusual and fabulous. I would like to return a......


Thaw Out at Frozen Jr. in Carleton Place! - theHumm February 2020

By Linda Beiglee & Sherrie Seward, CoProducers

This enchanting modern classic from Disney is based on the 2018 Broadway musical, bringing Elsa, Anna and the magical land of Arendelle to life onstage.

A story of true love and acceptance between sisters, Frozen Jr. examines the emotional relationship between Princesses Anna and Elsa as they embark on a journey. When faced with danger, the two discover their hidden potential and the powerful bond of sisterhood. With a cast of beloved characters, and laden with magic, adventure and plenty of h......


Hard Hitting Blues at Blues on the Rideau - theHumm February 2020

If you like your blues hard and heavy then you won’t want to miss the Bill Durst band at the Cove on February 21. Blues on the Rideau producer James Doran explains: “This will be Bill’s first visit to Westport, and I don’t know why it’s taken this long for us to get him here. I promise that anyone who loves Texas roadhouse-style blues (like ZZ Top) will really enjoy this band. This power trio blues rock is as good as it gets!”

Growing up in Wingham, Ontario, Bill was influenced by Mo......


Almonte’s Seedy Saturday - theHumm February 2020

By David Hinks

The fifth annual Almonte Seedy Saturday will soon be here. That’s right — fifth year — what an amazing anniversary!

Seedy Saturday comes to the Almonte Civitan Club on Saturday, February 8 from 9am to 3pm. Once again there will be guest speakers all day on a wide variety of topics, more than forty artisan vendors and not-for-profits, door prizes, plenty of seed swapping, and homemade brunch from the Civitan canteen. Johvi Leeck, a young local entrepreneur and owner of t......


Key for Two
Laugh the Winter Away at the Station Theatre
- theHumm February 2020

By Smiths Falls Community Theatre

February is the dreariest of months — if you aren’t a winter person. There’s snow, cold, wind… it seems to have been here forever and seems like it’s never going to end. You need a pick-me-up! A night to forget about it all and just submerse yourself in a whole lot of nonsense. That’s where the Station Theatre comes in. Our production of the traditional British farce Key for Two by John Chapman and Dave Freeman is sure to lighten your mood!

First-time director Linda Pipher has put together a g......


Shift Happens: A Documentary Series
The Impact of Humans on Our Planetand What Can Be Done About It
- theHumm February 2020

Studio Theatre Perth, Biosphere Environmental Education, and Three Green Peas are pleased to announce a series of documentary films at the Studio Theatre in Perth.

Five award-winning environmental documentaries shown over five months will cover climate change and environmental challenges caused by human activity. One documentary from the series was presented in November 2019, and four more will be shown in February, March, April, and May of 2020. These films explore the dangers facing our......


Family Time & Mid-Winter Milling! - theHumm February 2020

By Miss Mills

OK — we’re tired of being indoors already, so it must be time to head outside for some awesome activities and marvellous milling about. No problem — Mississippi Mills has you covered (or uncovered, as the case may be)!

Monday, February 17 is Family Day in Ontario, and there are many affordable (and free!) activities to enjoy close to home. In Almonte, Pakenham and area, you can enjoy free public skating, explore local history, have fun outdoors, eat pancakes or catch a screeni......


Marion Bridge
Where Past and Present Jostle for Forgiveness
- theHumm February 2020

By Heddy Sorour

Studio Theatre Perth’s upcoming production promises a heart-warming evening of discovery. Marion Bridge by Daniel MacIvor is a humorous and touching story about the power of realization and how it heals more than it harms.

“It’s a drama, with lots of comic moments. They’re amusing characters and the language is amusing and clever and it just flows,” enthuses director Barb Guthrie.

The play is about three sisters in their thirties who congregate at their childhood “home” ......


Eric Walker: Solo Exhibition in Almonte - theHumm February 2020

Artist Eric Walker has been creating his “painted constructions” — blurring the boundaries of painting, collage, and sculpture — for over three decades. Much of his work is linked to the history and culture of the Maritimes, combining elements of high art with more vernacular forms. Walker aims to call attention to collective history by focusing on a mix of commonplace subjects such as ships, trains, government buildings and cities seen from the ground ......


The Postman Delivers - theHumm February 2020

By Sebastian Weetabix

But first, a word from Weetabix on analogies and terminology, since exactly what is delivered is of interest. “Il Postino” in Italian is, literally, the postman or letter carrier. Il Postino in A......


The People Are Coming!The People Are Coming! - theHumm February 2020

By Glenda Jones

I feel like I’m living in that Ikea commercial — in a big flap because company is coming, important company who’ll be here for a few days, and who might be opening cupboards or looking under beds......


Snow Angel Party - theHumm February 2020

By Sue Cressy

We are celebrating the Tenth Annual Snow Angel Making Party at Highlands Gate (4381 Wolf Grove Road in Lanark Highlands) on Sunday, February 16 from 1–4pm. It’s fun, it’s free, and it is fab......


Library, After Dark
Featuring Jenny Whiteley & Joey Wright
- theHumm February 2020

By Heidi Taber Work

The Perth & District Union Public Library is preparing to use their space like never before. On Saturday, February 22 at 8pm, the library will be transformed into a live music venue for ......


If You Heart Art… - theHumm February 2020

By Miss Cellaneous

Find Faraway Places… in Perth!

As the temperatures drop and we start to feel a little tired of lower light levels and icy pathways, our thoughts tend to travel to Fara......


Indian Creek Orchard Gardens - theHumm February 2020

By David Hinks

“Five acres is not nearly enough”, opined Scott Sigurdson in a recent interview.

Scott is one-half of the dynamic duo that own Indian Creek Orchard Gardens near Pakenham. Scott and his life-......


Church is Not aFour-Letter Word - theHumm February 2020

By Heather Atkinson

Three years ago, I “came out” to the former minister of the church where I sing in Pakenham. I had asked to meet with him, and I was very nervous. I had a big secret to share.

“Reverend,” I s......


The Narrow Years and the Luxurious Years - theHumm February 2020

By Angie Arendt

It’s not much of an orchard as far as orchards go, I suppose. Rumour has it that back when roads around here were mostly dirt and people were still punching a time clock in the mills across the r......


HFT Donuts’Vallentyne Bake - theHumm February 2020

When Ed and Doris Atwell first moved to Clayton, one of the first people they met was Gord Vallentyne. Gord’s brother Bill was often in the Clayton General Store, so they got to know him as well.......


Embracing Winter in Smiths Falls - theHumm February 2020

By John Pigeau

You know, you never hear a ten-year-old say, “Man, I’m so over winter. This is bleak.” Nope, kids are a hearty lot. Playful, adventurous. When I was a kid, February was prime time road hockey sea......


PDHS PresentsA Preview of Spring - theHumm February 2020

Spring will feel just around the corner when Carol Onion of Hillside Gardens treats us to what we might expect this growing season. At the Perth and District Horticultural Society (PDHS) meeting ......


Come toMardi Gras
(Without Travelling Too Far!)
- theHumm February 2020

By Karen DeLuca

On February 22, the Arnprior Public Library, in collaboration with the Arnprior & District Food Bank, will be hosting a fundraising extravaganza sure to kick out those mid-winter doldrums.



Choral Evensong in Perth - theHumm February 2020

The evenings are already getting lighter — a perfect opportunity to come to Choral Evensong at St. James the Apostle Anglican Church in Perth on Sunday, February 16. There will be a prelude ......


Music of Life
River Resonance Chamber Choir
- theHumm February 2020

River Resonance Chamber Choir is a new addition to the Perth choral scene. This twenty-voice balanced choir, comprised of voices from across Lanark County, is led by Nicola Oddy and will perform ......


The Girl, the Ash, the Plantation… and Wilding - theHumm February 2020

By Susie Osler

The Girl

She used to sing as she walked past and up the hill, to the rock where she would sit, looking back towards me, and I towards her. We grew up together. She’d w......