For months now I’ve been traveling around Vancouver exploring new areas in search of one thing, Vancouver, Washington’s Heritage Trees. The search makes for great date days with excellent conversation. Family outings to find the trees lead to teachable moments. Solo tree-viewing trips encourage my independence and cement my sense of self.
Trees have been a part of me for as long as I can remember. My earliest memories include finding a ladybug on tree bark in my childhood lawn and crossing a bridge at the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens surrounded by Lilac trees and bushes. My father loved trees, surrounded us with them, and said if he had to choose a career again, he would be a tree doctor.
Cemeteries also frame portions of my childhood. Memorial days dance in the maypoles of my memory as joyous times. Mom would pick bouquets and we would place them on my grandpa’s grave. Then we would join my dad’s mom, siblings, and their children as we celebrated my grandfather’s life.
When my dad passed away, my one request for the plot was that it be under a tree. He loved them so. Their serene branches wave over his plot still today as gentle comforting arms.
The Old City Cemetery in Vancouver holds three such beauties, all heritage trees, stately and peaceful. The oldest headstone I could find claimed a date from the 1860s. As I searched for the Chesnut Oak, White Ash, and Green Ash circling the cemetery, it gave me great peace to imagine mourners being comforted by these when they stood as mere saplings. The history these majestic representatives have witnessed is unimaginable. I am certain mourners with countless tears, sad smiles, and soul-weary emotional exhaustion sought shade and a listening plant ear as they poured out their burdens to these strong companions. I have done the same myself on multiple occasions.
As I searched for these giants, I couldn’t help getting sidetracked by the beautiful headstones. I stood captivated as I looked at the final resting places of our city’s founders.
The ornate care is evident in the craft of many of the oldest graves. Several headstones, though past their sesquicentennial anniversary, display craftsmanship not often seen today. Amazing also is the above-ground tomb with mere initials giving clues to who is laid to rest there.
Perhaps the most interesting and ornate of all the tombstones are those marked “Woodman of the World,” a fraternal organization with an office in Portland, Oregon. The complexity of these is engrossing. They seemed fitting given I came to search for trees. I had to research the organization, of course. The principles behind the WOW surmount caring for our forests. The words inscribed read, “Dum Tacet Clamat”, which means “Though silent, he speaks.” If you are wondering what this has to do with their principles, you will have to read more here: http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ar/county/greene/historywood.htm.
I will be posting more about Vancouver’s Heritage trees in other blogs, but for now, it is my hope that this gets you out to these view these three. If you want to skip ahead and view others on the list, the trees can be found here: https://www.cityofvancouver.us/sites/default/files/fileattachments/public_works/page/12327/heritage_tree_inventory_booklet_website.pdf or here (for the much simplier version I use) and as an easy means to get started: http://www.cityofvancouver.us/sites/default/files/fileattachments/public_works/page/12327/ht_tour_outreach_info_sheet_urbanforestry_09302020_0.pdf.
One quick note: In sharing these graves, I meant to honor all the deceased and those who mourn their passing, not to bring negative attention or exploitation. I realize this is a fine line to walk. Please know that I did my best to retain and uphold dignity.
I dedicate this blog to my cousin, Linda Kay Lund. You have taught me so much about my ancestors. It is because of you that I know parts of my past I never knew existed. Thank you.
Reader, dream fearlessly, travel locally, and remember, “Just because it’s in your backyard doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit.”