This piece, written for my newspaper column On the Rock in 1992, was written under the heavy influence of the great Walt Whitman, whose literary blood also coursed through the veins of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, though I’m hardly in their league.
Still, it remains one of my all time favourites…
Last Saturday, in the Valley at least, was a special day that likely went uncelebrated by most of us.
Saturday was, you may recall, the first day of a glorious long weekend. But it was also the day that the poplars, burnished by a hot sun, caressed by a dry wind, burst their buds, releasing the first leafy foliage of summer.
It was an achingly beautiful sight, the timorous green against an azure sky, a dazzling relief to the harsh monochromes of winter and spring.
Maybe it’s time we paused to contemplate the lowly poplar. We Northerners, (and I am as guilty as the next) tend to take it for granted, dismissing it as “a garbage tree” or “an overgrown weed.”
Long scorned by the sawyer as a nuisance and by the wood burner as a greasy fibre that burns too hot and too fast, poplars tend to grow quickly, rot prematurely, and snap perilously in high winds.
And yet it is the most ubiquitous of deciduous trees in these parts, supremely adapted to the difficult latitudes of the Canadian Shield, thriving where its nobler cousins, the maple, ash, and oak cannot gain a foothold.
And I wonder, too, whether most of us here On the Rock are not a lot more like the poplar than we care to admit.