Monday, November 10, 2008

Victoria's unique war memorial

Shelbourne avenue is nicely lined with trees at the southern end and at the northern end. In between there are some nice big old trees along the street. These trees were planted as a living memorial to each and every British Columbian that died in World War I. David Obee wrote a wonderful article about it earlier this year.

The project was not a small one - 1500 trees to be planted and plaques for each tree. The project took the better part of a decade to get close to completion and it was never actually all done.

I have been to many cenotaphs over the years and seen the bland, boring and lifeless monuments that they are. I have my own personal issues with remembrance day due to my pacifism that is driven by faith in God - to kill another human is to kill that of God within them. Each year my sons go to the Esquimalt remembrance day ceremony as part of the 3rd Douglas Scout group. Each I do not go because I do not know how to react to the ceremony and do not want to cause a problem or start a debate/argument about war and the military.

Since I read about the reason the trees are along the Shelbourne I have in awe of the vision and brilliance of it as a memorial. A monumental scale memorial that is living but has been created to remember the dead. The line of trees, one after the other, like soldiers marching to war. Each living tree being there for one man that died do long ago.

I would love to see the monument come back to life, to have the plaques on the trees for each person that died, to have the trees added that are needed to make it complete. I do not know how I start this given I have no spare time in my life, but maybe will send a request letter to the new Saanich and Victoria councils. Maybe when it is completed we could do the same for the people that died in the other wars.

After Catherine picks up the boys tomorrow, I am going to drive over to the Shelbourne and start to walk along the trees and contemplate each one of the being a young man from BC who in World War I died. I have looked for some tradition or ritual that I could do as a religious pacifist for a long time. I think the walk among the trees will be the one for me.
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