Reginald Hill Maple

Reginald Hill Maple

Drive down Morningside Road until you come to the end of the road, turning gently to your right you will find a large area where you can park your vehicle. You can also walk to the site from the Fulford Ferry Terminal but if you are catching the ferry please allow 90 minutes for the walk. You will see open gates to Reginald Hill, walk through them and up the hill, as you begin to go around a large bend keep an eye out on your left for the public trail marker and follow the arrow on it. You will quickly come to a small fork in the road, keep to your left and make your way through the chained gateway to the trail. Follow the path which leads you through giant Ferns and Poplars lining the pathway. Eventually you will reach a large meadow clearing once you are on the other side of the clearing begin looking for the small cairn that sits under the Maple tree.

As I made my way on the familiar trail I was struck by how much larger the Ferns and Poplars seemed. I’d lived in the immediate area for my first two years on Salt Spring Island and often hiked the Reginald Hill trails with my dog. It had been about four years since I’d been there and I’d forgotten how much I loved the trails. It was late morning and the sun was midway in the sky, bird song followed me as I made my way past the small swamp filled with generations of Poplar trees in all states of life and decay.

Leaving the sunny meadow area I stepped into the deep shade of the forest. I’m not sure what made me turn so abruptly to my right but as I did I was overcome with the immense beauty of the giant Maple tree that towered above me. The sun filtering through its leaves gave it an other-worldly feeling and filled me with awe. I had walked by this tree many times in the past and don’t recall being aware of it before. It was as if the Maple and I entered some space where the lines between us blurred – I was completely aware of its life force. I knew with certainty that this was the place I’d been guided to. I left the trail and circled the tree, marveling at the deep moss that covered its thick bark, wondering how long it had been standing here, a sentinel of the forest. A grandmother Maple tree.

Maple trees are associated with the moon and Jupiter and the water. Maple wood is used to make wands, staffs and Maypoles and is especially useful in spiritual healing.

Working with only natural site materials can be challenging. Many old branches were littered on the ground around her giant trunk and I thought of using them but quickly realized that I did not want to actually work directly with her. I didn’t want to move any of the natural materials around her as I didn’t know how they were interwoven with her – would their decomposing over her roots give her sustenance? Were there beneficial insects living in them? I walked back down the small hill back to the trail and stood there contemplating how I could pay homage to her in the gentlest way possible.

As I stood there I noticed that there were light coloured rocks scattered around the site and I began to collect them. With each rock I picked up my response to the Maple became clearer. I wanted to create a small cairn, a small wayfinding device, to mark this spot.  A cairn is a pile of stones stacked together to create a landmark that memorializes a site, an event, a person. They come in all shapes and sizes and have been used since time immemorial. As I scanned the area for rocks I found two Maple seeds and inserted them into the center of the cairn which now also became a seed depository.

As I was taking photographs of the Maple and cairn I was astonished to see what looked like a human looking form appear on a photograph. I like to think that this was the Grandmother Maple Deva who guided me to this place.

This ephemeral work will eventually  become integrated back into the site, speaking of our own ephemeral passage through this world, witnessed and supported by the natural world we are so deeply interconnected with.

I invite you to become part of this story and add your own photographs of your journey to the Reginald Hill Maple on Instagram #ssiwayfindingproject

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