In late Fall 2013, I discovered an abandoned black walnut grove while on one of my walks. It seemed to lack a consistently ‘known’ history – arborists, neighbours, folks at the College, did not seem to be aware of it, and some who might have been involved in its initial planting were deceased. It’s likely that I was a step or so away from a person who would know, but it wasn’t until I was little league baseball game half a year later that I discovered someone who did have some of the history, and this by happenstance, through casual conversation with a stranger sitting beside me on the bleachers. It seemed fitting.
At the base of the trees were small, metal, rectangular place holders, which I filled with laminated poems, roughly 8×5 in dimension. When I started, in the Fall of 2013, the trees were quite bare. The three rows of trees were filled as of June 2014 in a Fall-Summer sequence with poems by Monty Reid, derek beaulieu, and Sandra Ridley. This project was an extension of rout/e.
This grove, situated between the campus of the University of Guelph, Kemptville, and the AgroForestry Centre, offers opportunities to observe seasonal habitat changes and communities within a specific locale in ways that the larger rout/e project does not — mainly because the poems are placed together, each to their own row, but in the same general space. Over the next eight to nine months, the trees, and their surroundings, changed significantly. Seasonal changes bring with them a change of focus; the eyes observe, seek things that they might not in other seasons. Species adapt and benefit from the habitats differently from season to season. I used laminated paper in the placeholders and was surprised at how well the poems held up given the harsh winter and summer conditions. Their surfaces undergo stress, which affects the page. There are squirrel middens, animal paths, evidence of predation, scat, insect eggs, frass, mold, among other things. Foliage grows up and around, and then wilts back. And there sit the poems…until they don’t.