toronto-elm-tree

Going through my childhood items I looted from home elicits longing for times past or things lost. Everyone does this to some degree. There is a dark side to nostalgia:  we often whitewash the past into something better than it actually was. Worse, libido (psychic energy) is not grounded in the present where it ought to be. This prevents gratitude of the present and thwarts going forward. This is not good. Most of psychotherapy counseling is an attempt to get the past ‘past’ and no longer haunting the present.  “What’s good about the past is incorporated into the present and what’s bad about the past is .. past”.

That said a child-like complex in me sorely misses some things.  In the Captain’s chest of childhood knickknacks is a small pouch of desiccated brown ‘spots’ of an unknown entity.  What were they and why did I put them away in my box of treasures?  It took a few days to connect the dots: they are elm tree seeds!  I nearly came to tears at this Proustian revelation.

I grew up on a cul-de-sac street lined with elm trees. As a boy they seemed mammoth,  on equal status with sequoias in their majesty.  When you entered the street you drove under their majestic branches as if traveling down a Gothic cathedral.  With the approach of a summer thunderstorm the elms would sway in a sonorous message heralding the storm’s arrival.  In the autumn these mighty trees covered the lawns with their brown-speckled yellow leaves deep as a shag carpet.  The white snows of winter (there was more snow then) contrasted with the brown gray of the mighty trunks.

Then the Dutch elm disease came and wiped them out. I don’t remember witnessing this – perhaps my mind as shaken the scene like an unwanted etch-a-sketch drawing.  I don’t know if elm trees still exist. Rumor has it there are communities of elm trees in the small towns of the Canadian plains, zealously guarded from outsiders.  I hope this is true and someday their seeds can be returned to Midwest USA.

Last month I drove down Faircourt St. to see the homes of my youth. They hadn’t changed but they all were exposed to the sky like a newly built suburb. The trees were short Japanese maple types no taller than a man on a ladder.  It all looked vulnerable like King Lear naked to the elements.

I thought to put the decades-old elm seeds (dry as ancient parchment) into potting soil and see if they would germinate.  If successful I could bring the saplings back to Michigan and plant them like Johnny Appleseed.  I hate to think all that work would merely result into a quick death from the same bugs.  I think I will merely keep the seeds in the chest among the Boy Scout items and my elementary report cards as things from the past that are never coming back.  I am putting on my bucket list  “Walk among elm trees”.   Maybe it’s possible.