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Not to be stereotypical, but I suspect that, if you asked anyone around the world to describe Canadians, they would say nature freaks or tree huggers. Leaving aside our not-so-great environmental record on a number of issues, there is a lot of truth in that assessment. Take Gill, for instance. She used to amaze her friends in London when they’d go for walks in the city and she’d point out trees, birds, flowers — even properly identifying them. I have indoctrinated my kids since they were young, on caring for the earth’s creatures, flora and fauna.

They are the first onboard to rescue animals — the lamer or more needy, the better. Our family outings consist of things like the donkey sanctuary, our family country acreage (including swamp and beavers), and the local nursery that features a cockatoo as the ‘greeter’. As for Crazy D, well, regular readers already know about his love of the offbeat, secluded trails and parks and scenic areas that boast dangerous hiking and biking trails. In fact, Gill is the only one of the three of them who tolerates cities.

So it shouldn’t have surprised me when Gill announced that she had been to a ‘Festival of Nature’ in her current home of Bristol. She always wants to go to our local farmer’s market when she comes home in the summer and acts like a kid at am amusement park when she does. She devours the sweet, deep fried donuts or butter tarts, stops to chat with Mr. Martin, her favorite Old Order Mennonite cheese purveyor, and drools over the bushel baskets of fresh produce — the corn, peaches and tomatoes especially. For her to have discovered something akin to this market in Bristol had her raving with delight.

It was when she mentioned the trees that I knew she was feeling her Canadian roots (no pun intended.)

“Ma, they were giving away trees! For free. I really wanted one but I didn’t get one since I have nowhere to plant it.”

“Good decision,” I agreed. That would be ridiculous to try to grow it on her small balcony. Oh, sure, it probably would convince the pigeon that’s been stalking her to make her balcony its permanent home (something she has been hoping for), but the gale force winds that threaten to blow open her balcony doors on a regular basis would be life-threatening for a poor little tree. (At this point, the pigeon would be on its own.)Or knowing Gill, she might even grow the tree inside, hoping to lure the bird into her flat whereupon she could officially adopt it.

Just when I was applauding her decision not to get a tree, she weakened. “Ma, I couldn’t resist it! The little trees were so cute. So I got one. I thought maybe I could give it to a friend with a yard. In fact, I mentioned it to Italian Lady and she thought she could take it — until she realized how big it might get. I explained to her about Canadians and their love of trees. She said it helped explain a wedding gift she had received years ago from another Canadian friend. It too was a small tree. When I told her how we often give such things to commemorate special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, etc. she said she finally ‘got’ Canadians.”

I too have gifted trees to friends. But the one idea, that of giving people living potted trees at Christmas to later plant in their yards came, and I hate to admit this, from our time in California. It was a hippie-dippy thing that was born in the 60s environmental movement. As a lot of things do, it later became common in other North American locales.

While Gill is busy trying to populate the landscape with new trees, I’m afraid to admit to her that I’m doing the opposite. I have a large evergreen at the front corner of my lot. It is 26 years old and is spreading its limbs over the sidewalk — thus impeding walking and site lines for cars stopped at the corner. Some bright spark in the neighborhood (‘Bad Neighbor #1’ –who will not show his face) took it upon himself to hack off some branches last winter. Or to be more precise, he hacked some off but left others partly hacked but still clinging to the tree. How would you feel if someone tried hacking off one of your limbs and left it dangling?

So I did the only humane thing. I hired a logging company to put the limbs out of their misery. (I was forced to use this ‘nuclear’ approach since all the regular tree pruning services were booked up.) The surgery left my tree looking bereft but still standing guard to protect my house from over zealous winter drivers skidding around the corner and sliding into my porch.

I don’t dare tell Gill since she’ll likely call me a tree butcher. And then there’s the old maple tree also on my front lawn that is dying a slow and ugly death. I hate to cut it down since it still provides shade for my house. And if I do chop it down, I can see a day when Gill will be picketing in front of my house, in much the same way the anti-abortion people protest in front of the hospital, claiming I kill trees instead of babies.

I can rest easy in the knowledge that Gill has a new tree to plant where my old one stood. All she has to do is smuggle it through customs. Then again, I can’t see Canadian customs turning down a tree. Can you? After all, this is Canada, land of the tree huggers.