The winds of 1810 made the maple seed twirl hither and thither as maples do. It planted itself in the lush soil of the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. All around the Warmland industry and homes sprang up. Still the maple grew. And grew. It soon surpassed the house’s roof, and as it continued to reach up, started to stretch out. By 2013 the Bigleaf Western Maple stood tall and broad, but was weak at its core.

For Mag and Vern Mawhinney the tree was a stalwart beacon, welcoming them home every day for 21 years. Mag’s poet soul didn’t want to see the tree come down. Realism made it a choice between the rotting tree and the house. But the poetry came alive when she realized that, just as she was part of the tree’s story, its story was far from over.

The Swing Tree

A swing is hanging in my yard
From an old-growth maple tree
And a gentle breeze makes it rock,
So weightless and so free.

The ropes are tied with slipknots
Through four holes worn and round
And a weather-beaten seat
Casts a shadow on the ground.

As the wind blew through their hair;
But now the ropes hang idle
And the wooden seat is bare.

I sometimes sit upon this swing
Beneath that grand old tree,
Remembering the playful child
That’s still a part of me.

By Mag Mawhinney, reprinted in “Western Spirit”, WMA Cowboy Poetry Book of the Year, 2013

Tree story