We had a dream a magnificent dream
For a chestnut in her prime.
A mate she was needing
And now we have found him - just in time
That’s the opening to Pauline Le Bel’s poem about Bouche de Bétizac, Davies Orchard’s newest resident. On September 22, the Autumn Equinox, I joined Pauline and members of the Bowen Island Heritage Preservation Association (BIHPA) to witness the planting of the six-foot-tall French chestnut cultivar.
There was digging – much digging - and the addition of rich layers of soil, courtesy of Metro Parks staff. After Pauline added a few leaves from the 150-year-old Castanea Sativa who stands nearby, Erik Hunter-James and Guthrie Gloag placed Bouche de Bétizak gently into the ground and Pauline offered the tree an official, poetic welcome.
Sound anthropomorphic? That’s what we were going for! The latest scientific discoveries now tell us that trees actually share quite a lot in common with us humans. Trees are social beings, who exist within constantly evolving communities. They communicate, exchange nutrients, and help one another. They also have memory. Trees are beings, each of them unique, each with their own stories, and each of them connected to us in ways that we might not have previously bothered to imagine. Pauline and I have embraced that and we hope others will too.
Now is the time to shift away from the worldview which sees nature existing to serve us.
We can start by deepening our respect and reverence for the beings with whom we co-exist, and have co-evolved. It’s time to embrace trees as more than just resources and givers of oxygen: they are kin.
We had hoped to celebrate the new tree in person with all of you, but alas, the global pandemic rages on and the Bowen Island Heritage Preservation Association (BHIPA) has decided Applefest is safest as a virtual event this year. Instead, you can view a three minute video of Bouche de Bétizac’s planting, and Pauline’s poem, as part of the larger online celebration. We’ll release the video to the wider public afterward.
Thank you so much to all those who made this project and the planting of Bouche de Bétizac possible including: the Bowen Island Community Foundation, the Bowen Island Municipality, Metro Parks, and BIHPA.
In conclusion, I urge you all to take some time to stroll down to the orchard and visit the trees. Look up and marvel at all those half formed chestnuts on Castanea Sativa. With a little luck (I mean pollination) we’ll be rich in chestnuts by next autumn.