Les Arbres Ne Votent Pas
The weekend just before Canadians went to the polls, we went to the woods.
In all honesty, we didn’t go very far in. We rented a car, drove to Parc National du Mont Tremblant, and spent a long weekend glamping.
To give us some roughing-it credit, the glamp shine was buffed off a bit by some very frosty nights. We had only ever camped in the summer before and relied too much on the fact that the half-tent/half-cabin we rented listed a space “heater” in its amenities. While the girls were cozy warm in their mummy bags the first two nights, the bags we borrowed for ourselves were not up to the challenge of 25-degree lows. Even with doubled pajama layers and hats, every time Jim or I shifted position a chilly draft rushed in. The first day and a half we had to bundle up to do most everything, most notably to use the bathroom.
Managing days full of cold was a new challenge, as was our introduction to rock-climbing. JS, our lovely, patient guide helped us pick our way up and across the Vache Noir cliff, a tiny part of the Laurentian mountains. All four of us felt the uncanniness of looking along or far, far down a near-vertical wall of rock perched on rungs and footholds clipped to an iron rope. We moved into, through, and past our nervous hesitation and fear. And the reward, a view of the Riviere du Diable loping its way through still green lowlands while rounded peaks loomed over, their flanks grayed and bristled after losing nearly all the leaves they had to drop.
JS pointed out that further north in Quebec a geology grad student found what is claimed to be the oldest rock on the planet, estimated to be about 3.8 billion years old. The Laurentians are among Earth's oldest mountains. There we were, soft quivering things 600 feet above the ground clinging to rock half a billion years old.
The day before as we hiked with feet firmly on the ground, Nora announced that the trail wasn’t always here, it was made by people. She wondered what the woods were like before the trail and then whether there are truly any wild places anymore. This isn’t out of character for my nine-year-old who has long been eerily wise with a bent toward catastrophic thinking. But still it was striking how she landed on and then revolved around that word, wild.
And as I reflect on our trip, I’m reminded of a political action I saw a few weeks back in a park near our Montreal house. Each tree wore a little hand-made fabric sign that said Les arbres ne votent pas. The trees don’t vote.
In Mont-Tremblant and similar spaces, you experience directly through your senses the many ways the world is so much larger than us: forests of interconnected life, mountains that have been worn down by hundreds of millions of years, the cold night sky so much starrier given a greater ration of darkness. That largeness seems wild in its beyond-us.
And yet we are part of and leave our mark in it. The trees don’t vote. They don’t have a say in what humans choose to do and the habits we accumulate without really choosing. But these choices and habits directly affect them. Let me cast my next votes for trees.