I propose a challenge. How far can you take a four-month summer break? What are the places you can see? Who are the people you can meet? How far can you push yourself until your entire perspective on life changes? There’s an industry that operates in the northern reaches of Canada and falls victim to dirty bohemian stereotypes. This particular trade caters to anyone moderately able-bodied and crazy enough to take a plunge. Everyone knows it’s there, but no one knows how, or why, or what. The name of this industry is tree planting. Its purpose is to fuel the future of the lumber industry, its happenings are surprisingly sophisticated, and yes, it’s a hippie haven.
In the north and on the Pacific coast, tree planters dwell. When spring comes they hear the call of the trees and emerge from a long, cold winter – pudgy from first-world luxuries and thirsty for the wildly exotic forests of Canada. From their grimy homes they crawl, their downtown apartments or small town bungalows. Sometimes, a tree planter doesn’t have a home. Sometimes they roam, drifting from place to place, drinking in the vibes and tasting the herbs. After years in the trade, you can spot a tree planter from a distance and you can hear it in their voice. Some purposely wear dreads in their hair; others have them simply because they do. Dream catchers, yoga and marijuana. Their love for nature is a special and unconditional love, it stems from many nights of drinking and many hours alone, in their own head, hours from civilization in any direction, tackling the land with boot and shovel. As Mother Nature tries to harm them, cut them, eat them and mentally destabilize them their willpower only strengthens, and their connection with the earth grows. It’s true, when you thrust an individual into places a tree planter dare only go, and they persevere, it will surely change that individual. Their sense of smell is honed: they can smell bears, cougars and even raspberries; which they eat regardless of the insects living inside. Their love of trees is heightened. Being indoors is alien. The wind is a friend. Rain is but a tool you use to cool off. The clouds in the sky become the most beautiful mural, and the landscape is an intricate puzzle you must solve, unless your wish is to leave the whole affair penniless.
Tree planters are a certain kind of breed; no planter who’s stayed to the end of their season will ever forget their summer of perpetual stimulation. It’s important to note however, despite their wholesome connection with nature and their never-ending eccentricities, they’re all kind of dirt bags. Some of the nicest people you’ll ever treat with, some of the friendliest faces and the scruffiest of beards. However, dirt bags all the same.
Planting trees is at first a colossal physical challenge. The daily routine of carrying 60 to 80 lbs of saplings over fallen logs and massive stumps, dense thorny bush, muddy swamps and steep inclines for dozens of kilometers while fighting back swarms of blackflies and mosquitoes with the sun beating down on you, breaking the 30 degree Celsius mark and torching any exposed skin, regardless of the sunscreen you apply, takes quite the toll, let me tell you.
Tree planters are a certain kind of breed; no planter who’s stayed to the end of their season will ever forget their summer of perpetual stimulation. It’s important to note however, despite their wholesome connection with nature and their never-ending eccentricities, they’re all kind of dirt bags
As your endurance catches up with you, and you’ve drank enough beer, it becomes a mental challenge. Any past experience with being in my own head for nine hours at a time on a daily routine is one big goose egg; therefore, the most difficult challenge presented itself. Do you know yourself? Do you know your past – are there things you’ve forgotten, or longed to forget? They come back. Everything comes back. It’s your first real chance to independently come to terms with everything. You have so much time to yourself you begin to deconstruct your psyche for a look into what you really mean to yourself. The result? Well, that’s for you to find out.
The challenge still stands. Where will you be come next May? The hardest part is taking the jump, defying normalcy and journeying alone.