A personal view of Knowlton, Quebec, the Eastern Townships most beautiful village.

The Leaning Tree Says Good-Bye
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The sunset in early June breached the boughs of the leaning tree in Knowlton. We all knew her days were numbered yet still the end came quickly...Anyone who has ever drove Victoria street, walked hand-in-hand with a loved one across the Coldbrook Bridge on Victoria Street in Knowlton, or if you’ve ever stopped on the small cement span and watched the duck families swim downstream towards Brome Lake on an calm clear night you have surely noticed “the leaning tree” rising majestically above the surrounding forest leaning over the brook.

The leaning tree has always fascinated me. When we took our evening summer strolls in the neighborhood the leaning tree has drawn our eyes like a hypnotizing magnet with her off-kilter trunk and oversized hanging boughs; the tree was a veritable giant rising above the tree tops that surrounded her and the slowly drifting waters of the Coldbrook that eroded the banks and exposed her roots also reflected her massive glorious beauty in a surreal picture of natural beauty! We would often stop on the bridge and prop our elbows on the rails and gaze at the somehow delicate form that seemed to defy gravity.

To me the leaning tree reminded me of the strong vibrant people I have ever known who, through will, luck or destiny, were afflicted with some inevitable condition that would foretell their demise years in advance. We would often stop upon the bridge and I would say “It won’t be long now!” referring to the tall tree whose roots seemed to hold on for dear life as her trunk continued to lean more and more every year.

The leaning tree would suffer during the rainy season in Knowlton adn we would often watch the waters surround her trunk and we would say it was only a matter of time before the leaning tree came down...The regular yearly flooding of the Coldbrook would often be cause for even more concern as we would see the waters of the brook climb over the banks and literally grab at the trunk of the leaning tree. The increasing angle of the tree was obviously causing concern as the tree, if it fell during a flood or a freeze, could block the brook and cause a serious flood that would potentially damage the bridge and also the properties upstream.

While we all know that an end comes to all stories, even the most beautiful, it was hard for me to cross the bridge on a sunny day last week and see the leaning tree being un-ceremoniously brought down without feeling saddened as if I were watching someone succumb to the forces…and no matter how much I wanted to change things…it was beyond my control!

The leaning tree, to me, was the mature grandmother of the Knowlton area rising above her children and grandchildren and I will miss her presence on Victoria Street! As she grew older and older she began to increasingly feel the effects of gravity, erosion and age…much like we all do and in the end, for the safety of the region, she had to come down.

Taking this gentle giant down took longer than I expected. I was driving by when I saw a crew crawling on the tree stripping her boughs and tying the winch to bring her down. Sawdust was drifting as the chainsaw teeth roared and chomped at the leaning tree trunk which measured over 3 feet in diameter. A lone resident with a camera came to the bridge to take pictures and one motorcyle stopped as he drove by and watched.

The chainsaw roared and the sawdust flew as the leaning tree came down with the help of winches and three tree cutters...like a surgical operation we watched as our leaning tree came down...

To me, on that warm sunny day...it was as if a loyal Canadian soldier who had spent a career protecting & watching over us had been suddenly taken down the line of duty and in the end only a handful of veterans turned out to say good-bye. Ok...maybe it was not as dramatic...but I can still see the sawdust blowing towards me as the leaning tree resisted being taken down for over an hour...and I felt a reeal surge of emotion taking me back through years of seeing that faithful leaning tree looking back at me...

Sometimes it is a simple natural wonder that can define a moment or a place in time…I think that for me the leaning tree made a mark on myself and maybe many people who ever saw her...despite the rapid complications of modern life I will have a special place in my heart for the patience and inherent simplicty of that leaning tree and the symbolism that such a fragile giant brings to us...

A few residents stopped on the bridge to watch the leaning tree come down...the three of us waited for 30 minutes to see the eventual splash of the tree into the brook..then said goodbye solemnly as if at the funeral of a distant friend...As the three of us watched the leaning tree come down piece by piece I almost had to choke back tears as I remembered the joy I had recieved over the last three years of my residence in Knowlton watching the yellow finches and blackbirds who perched in her swaying arms and the ducks and their families who swam in the shadows of that glorious leaning tree.

Sometimes it only takes a tree to make a difference...and often, when a single tree disappears, it can mean much more...

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