For those of you who have not had the pleasure of visiting the left coast, the jewel of Vancouver is Stanley Park, an amazing park on the edge of downtown with beaches, big forests, and a great aquarium, among other things. Since the 1880s, one of the attractions has been the hollow tree – a massive hollowed out stump, so big that you could back your Model T into it for a photo op. A few years ago, though, a big storm took out several of the trees in the park, and the hollow tree has been leaning at a dangerous angle ever since. The Park board decided that it was at danger of falling on tourists, and approved its removal. It’s sad, but that’s nature, and an inevitable part of our interaction with nature. We build roads so that we can easily access the hollow tree, the root structure is weakened as the soil is changed, and eventually the tree is at risk of falling onto the very road we built so that we could get to it – a victim of its own stardom. And so the landscape changes, as landscapes do, both because of and despite our interaction with them.
But wait. Enter the Stanley Park Hollow Tree Conservation Society. Wanting to ensure that “future generations of Vancouver residents and visitors alike [can] enjoy [the tree] with the same sense of wonderment, awe, and humbling perspective” as previous generations, the society has raised millions of dollars to brace the hollow tree. Nature will not have its way, so that we can continue to be awed by . . . the power of nature. I can understand the urge to preserve the tree – it’s an icon in the Vancouver landscape. However, the big old stump being propped up by metal poles is one of the saddest things I have ever seen. It stands not as a testament to the wonder of nature, but to our misguided attempts to control and tame nature to suit our own ends.