To Connect

By Jenifer Christenson, Edmonton, AB. 

Within minutes of arriving on this island, I see previously imagined forest scenes come to life as I drive through a canopy of trees—I later learn this canopy is referred to as The Tunnel, aptly named, as it seems to block out the rest of the world. Looking up into a sky of leaves, I see willowy trees move with the wind and I try to imagine how many lives they’ve touched. I am dizzy in my awe and left without words to describe this place… perhaps “magical” will do.

Touring the island, a classmate comments some of the houses look like they’re straight out of a fairytale. I can almost imagine Hansel and Gretel emerging through the trees—this is a stretch but it feels like anything is possible. It is two weeks after Halloween and I notice jack-o’-lanterns lining the side of the road as I drive through the tunnel. The carved pumpkins have been carefully placed—on top of fence posts, tree stumps, and on the forest floor. I understand this is part of a long-standing local tradition here: to carve your pumpkin and leave along the side of North Road, with nothing but an endless maze of trees as a backdrop. Apparently, the pumpkin fairy will come later to light the candles in each of these pumpkins. I try to envision this candle-lit jack-o’-lantern forest. Later, the festivities culminate with fireworks on the beach.

Where I come from, we have a Halloween Alley marked by neon signs, electronic billboards and trick-or-treaters: artificial markers that bombard us with the reality of our manmade environment. I ask a local about this tradition who shrugs it off—“its no big deal,” she says. I guess it’s just what they do. I am again overwhelmed by the magic of this place, the forest, and its connection to everything—to everyone. There is heart here and nature seems to be inextricably woven into people’s daily rituals. Indeed this place is dizzying.

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