Monday, April 20, 2009


My older son is home for a few days now that his exams are over for this year. His next few weeks will keep him busy fulfilling obligations back at school and then his summer will take him back to Gagetown, New Brunswick for thirteen weeks of military training - ten of which will be spent out in the field. He won't be home again until late August at the earliest, and most likely not until mid-October. For this week, my boys and I will be together. We'll share meals, music and conversation, and for now, all will feel right in my world.

Over the past few days, I've been to Frank's place and back. Among the many photos which I took, were a few of things that somehow were wrong. It wasn't intentional, but in reviewing the images, I found myself saying "Wrong. That's wrong. That's very wrong."

Frank wanted me to see this tree which he happened upon in a small parking lot a few days earlier.

It appeared to be surviving and sprouting its spring foliage despite how damaged it actually was. (please click to enlarge)

A huge segment of its trunk was hollowed out on two sides. Sheer determination alone appeared to be what was keeping it alive. (please click to enlarge)

I photographed it from a few angles - each one showing just how much of the trunk is missing. And yet it thrives, much like some brave souls who manage to cope with whatever hand they're dealt. (please click to enlarge)

Nearby, we happened upon this "Welcome" mat in an unlikely spot. Not on a porch. Not on a doorstep. Not outside of a store. It was simply sitting right in the middle of the road. (please click to enlarge)

These two guys were fishing for trout, but not in the traditional way. Earlier this month, when the creek overflowed from heavy rains, it flooded over the banks, across the path, along the grassy area and into the nearby pond, and carried two to three dozen trout with it. These fish need to get back out to the creek to successfully continue their spawning process and so these two volunteers were catching the trout in nets, removing them from the pond and replacing them into the creek where they belong. Thanks to them, the fish population will not be diminished as significantly as it would have been without their help. (please click to enlarge)

The creek is where spawning trout like this pair belong. That crazy pattern comes from the reflection of the trees which tower over the water. (please click to enlarge)

While out walking, Frank pointed up at a tree and interjected one word into our otherwise logical conversation. "Guitar."


"Yeah, there's a guitar up in that tree."

Sure enough.... .. someone's Kawasaki Keyboom guitar was posing nicely amid the branches of a tree. It was fairly high up, and I can't imagine how it got there. (please click to enlarge)

Of all things that were wrong (that is - not as it normally appears), this was the most heart-wrenching. Our Canadian flag at half-mast to honour our most recently fallen soldier, killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. She was 21 year old Trooper Karine Blais and she was just two weeks into her first tour of duty. She was the 117th to die in the Afghan mission since it began seven years ago, the second female to die in this mission and she was her parents' only daughter. (please click to enlarge)

As with those who passed before her, Karine Blais' body traveled the Highway of Heroes - a stretch of Highway 401 which runs between Canadian Forces Base Trenton through to Toronto. Thousands of people gather on the overpasses along the route, to pay respects, to say "thank you" and "goodbye" to our fallen soldiers as they return home. This January, 2009 article by Paul Crookall tells the story of this tradition best. (please click to enlarge)

On November 11th, 2008, in a blog post called Remembering Our Heroes, I included the names of the 97 soldiers who had been killed in Afghanistan up to that time. Since then, we have lost an additional twenty sons and daughters. They are:

Cpl. Mark Robert McLaren, 23 • Pte. Demetrios Diplaros, 25 • Warrant Officer Robert Wilson, 37 • Cpl. Thomas James Hamilton, 26 • Pte. John Michael Roy Curwin, 26 • Pte. Justin Peter Jones, 21 • Private Michael Freeman, 28 • Warrant Officer Gaetan Roberge, 45 • Sgt. Gregory John Kruse, 40 • Trooper Brian Richard Good, 42 • Sapper Sean Greenfield, 25 • Warrant Officer Dennis Raymond Brown, 38 • Cpl. Dany Fortin, 29 • Cpl. Kenneth O’Quinn, 25 • Trooper Marc Diab, 22 • Master Cpl. Scott Vernelli, 28 • Cpl. Tyler Crooks, 24 • Trooper Jack Bouthillier, 20 • Trooper Corey Joseph Hayes, 22 • Trooper Karine Blais, 21

Thank you.


photowannabe said...

A very painful ending to your post. Very sad. I do admire the persistence of that devestated tree.
Enjoy the time with your boys.

SandyCarlson said...

Trees are amazing--how they survive, how little they can survive on, how their lives insist on themselves.

I hope you have a nice few days with your son at home before he goes off for those 13 weeks. God bless him.

NJ said...

Enjoy your time with your son. These moments are really to be treasured.

Great pictures and love the theme "wrong"! I can't imagine out the guitar got up in the tree. There must be an interesting story behind that one.

Anonymous said...

Trees are truly amazing creations.

I smiled at the sight of a welcome mat in the middle of the road and then smiled in a different way at the photo of volunteers taking care of the future of the fish. (Great shot with the pattern!) I shook my head at the guitar in the tree... and then was totally unprepared for the next photo.
Your image of a large, half-mast flag looks to be flying over a jumble of wires and bramble -- an image of the mess and confusion that is caused by every side's involvement in this conflict.
To honor those 20 Canadians who have fallen since your Remembrance Day post, I read each name slowly, "speaking" it in my thoughts.

I know you will treasure your time with your boys this week.

Andrea said...

Wonderful post, Hilary. We have been out to the Highway of Heroes on occasion and it never ceases to move me....the powerful force of emotion from the people who gather there.

Crabby McSlacker said...

So sad to think of the families--who must feel very much like the tree with a huge hole it it. Hope they too can find light and life after their devastating losses.

HanamiGallery said...

awesome pics of the tree. nature can sure be amazing. the trout looks cool with the reflection upon them. i believe serving for your country is the most honorable thing anyone can do.

Anonymous said...

Hilary, I thought of some funny things to say about different pictures in this post, but when I got to the loss of young Karin, I didn't feel funny any more. I am so thankful for her sacrifice. I believe she and the others who have fallen are truly HEROS in the best sense of the word.

Mental P Mama said...

Such a painful reminder...

And the juxtaposition of that determined tree only makes it more sad. My heart goes out to every family.

Anonymous said...

p.s. I hope you have a wonderful week with your boys.

Gary's third pottery blog said...

The guitar is there perhaps because some parent got tired of their child's version of Stairway to heaven for the umpteenth time?
As for the young woman killed, over 200 years ago politicians in the US warned against foreign entanglements and you wonder why each generation has to get into these messes anyway.

Tabor said...

Wonderful and interesting photos!

Trees are inspiring in their determination.

Must have been one crazy party in that plane with the rock band!

Hoping that these wars will wind down sooner rather than later. So many people with great potential taken from us before their time.

Phyllis E said...

Hi Cuzzie,

Thanks for reminding us of the high cost of freedom. Our Dads did their parts, now your son is preparing to play his role.

Here in the US, we never hear about the Canadian losses - unless we have a feed to the CBC, that is.


Cuzzie P

Pat - Arkansas said...

Last few paragraphs: Heart-breaking. Your post title says it all.

Daryl said...

No, thank you for honoring them by sharing their names with us so we in turn can pay our thanks and respect for the service to their country and our world.

Leah J. Utas said...

I love the camo trout.
The tree is testament to putting one foot in front of the other and simply going on.
As for the guitar in the tree, my guess is it's someones homage to the first season of Lost. (Charlie's guitar fell out of a tree to him).
And the flag, well, I really have no words for it.

lime said...

something's not right indeed. my condolences to the family and the nation on the loss of such fine young people.

as for that tree, the close up of the hole makes it look like a face with a gaping maw. ;)

Bubblewench said...

Hope you enjoy your time with your boy.

Interesting tree! Amazing how they can survive with such destruction!

Thank you for the interesting story about fallen soldiers. What a great way to remember them

Frank Baron said...

As Crabby noted, the tree is an apt metaphor for a bereft family that struggles on, despite the hole in its heart.

Love the trout shot. (Then again, I just purely love trout.) ;)

Nothing wrong with your post, Hil, except the title.

ds said...

Such a powerful post, Hilary. I laughed at the sight of the tree-bound guitar, but Crabby said it best. My heart goes out to those families, and to everyone who has experienced the loss that is war.

Thank you. Have a wonderful time with your sons.

Nancy said...

I really loved seeing the trees that survive horrendous abuse, but continue to keep going.

Our deepest sympathy for your fallen soldiers.

Enjoy your sons - it is so quiet when the leave.

the Bag Lady said...

Crabby said what I wanted to say!
(and probably far better than I would have)

This was a wonderful post, Hilary! Words fail me.

Suldog said...

Deep and moving, on all counts.

(Well, maybe not the guitar, but who knows how it got there?)

UmmFarouq said...

A much appreciated, bittersweet post.
Here's to all of those who are striving to make wrongs right, and while they're at it, make the world right by restoring peace, promoting love and understanding, and engaging in healthy, healing dialogue.
I think it's within reach!

Reb said...

Hilary, this was a great post. I love the trees determination to survive. The trout savers is a great capture as it the photo is the trout.

Thank you for reminding us all of the people that continue to pay for our freedoms with their lives.

Have a good time with your boys.

Kat said...

Yes. All wrong.

Although the tree seems so beautiful to me. It reminds me of people who have been through horrific tradegies and somehow manage to keep going. Determined. Love those pics.

And thank you for honoring the soldiers.

Maggie May said...

Thank you so much for your helpful information left in your comment on my blog.
That seems to have solved the problem, doesn't it? A fox! Very impressed by your research.

Wonderful set of photos that you have on your latest post. Lovely gnarled trees, full of character.
Very sad about the Canadian soldier. Our soldiers are also getting killed in Afghanistan. Such a waste of young life.

Andrea said...

Thank you.

All is right with the world when you can share time with your children.

Shammickite said...

Every time I hear that yet another of our military personnel has been killed in Afghanistan, I am more and more convinced that Canada should not be participating in the conflict. But I know that Canada has committed troops to be there for another two years or maybe more, but how many more lives will be lost.... it's definitely WRONG!
I have the utmost respect for your son and his companions who serve in the military. They do a fantastic job. And I'm so glad you and your sons can spend time together right now.
That's not your son's guitar up the tree, is it????

Cath said...

You're right Hilary - it is just wrong/

Poignant post. Thank you.
Lest we forget...

Dianne said...

I read each name and paused for a moment to imagine a young beaming face full of a future that will never be - each Sunday George Stephanapolis names all those we lost the past week - that's how my little tradition began. A moment is so little to give to those who gave all

The tree is so touching! I adore trees, they are a metaphor for so much of life.

Bless the trout savers :)

Enjoy the boys.

Hugs for this post Hil. You're a good soul.

Russell said...

You saved the most powerful, moving and touching portion for the last. Goodness... words cannot express the emotions.

I am reminded of the songs of Peter, Paul and Mary as well as many other groups who sang and lamented such tragedy.

The title of your post is perhaps the best word I can think of to describe my feelings for the loss of this young person - wrong. Just wrong, wrong and more wrong.

A very touching post, Hilary.

On another note, I found the guitar in the tree a most interesting image -- but perhaps my favorite, positive image was the Welcome mat out in the middle of the road. That was a most interesting image!

Take care.

ds said...

Just wanted you to know that I have (again) left you something on my blog. This is a "special edition" however, so it carries no obligation to do anything at all. It's just a token of my thanks & appreciation, as you are one of the people who define this particular item for my particular spot.

Zuzana said...

You constantly write so beautifully, with both your pictures and words.
I love the photographs of the tree that refuses to give in.;)
And all the others are amazingly intriguing as well; always a joy to stop by here.;)

Shrinky said...

Oh love, these are troubling times in which we live.. thank God for the likes of your son. Give him a hug from me, will you?

I love your photographic observations. I have a favourite picture I took long before the era of digital arrived. It's a black and white image of a motorbike dangling high from a crane - it was taken in the docklands of east London framed by tumble-down buildings. The area was being cleared to make way for the Canary Wharf project. I must dig it out sometime!

Kappa no He said...

That is heart wrenching about the newest fallen soldier. All of them. A beautiful post.

Hilary said...

• Thanks very much for your kind words, Sue. Much appreciated. Thanks for the visit. :)

• Thank you, Sandy. I agree with you about trees. We can probably learn a lot from them. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks, NJ. I'm thinking some parent got sick of hearing it. ;) Thanks for dropping by. :)

• Thank you, KC. You always get it. Thank you so much for having the heart that you do. You're a gem. :)

• Thanks, Andrea. I've never been, myself but can only imagine how deeply touching it is. It's a wonderful tradition which Frank tells me started in Durham region and grew from there. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thank you, Crabby. That was beautifully put. :)

• Thanks for the kind words, HG, and I agree with you about serving ones country. Thanks for the visit. :)

• Thank you, Sandra. I couldn't agree with you more.. but that's not unusual. Thanks for your always-caring heart. :)

• Thank you, MPM. There are just too many of those families everywhere. Thanks for your warm comments. :)

• Gary, either that - or Smoke on the Water. ;) As for our involvement, I believe my son is going to write one of my next blog posts (if he remembers and has time) so stay tuned. :)

• Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Tabor. Your rock band thought made me chuckle. :)

• Thanks, Cuzzie. I didn't expect you would hear about our losses in the U.S. but no doubt you'll continue to hear about here from time to time. Thanks for the visit, and hugs right back at you. :)

• Thanks for stopping by and reading, Pat. :)

• Thanks, Daryl. The thanks belongs to our brave soldiers... a billion times over. Thanks for the kind comment. :)

• Thanks for your very thoughtful comments, Leah. I like the term "camo trout" and thanks for explaining the Lost comment.. I've never seen that show. Thanks always for stopping by. :)

• Thanks for you kind thoughts and sentiment, Lime. You're right about that tree.. kind of like The Scream. ;)

• Thanks kindly, Bubblewench. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. :)

• Thanks muchly, Frank. Crabby's metaphor is indeed spot on. And your love for trout is just a tad creepy sometimes, but what else could I expect from a fish whisperer? ;)

• Thanks very much for the kind words, DS. I'm glad you appreciated the post. :)

• Thanks kindly, L of L. You're so right about the quiet. Thanks for the warm thoughts. :)

• Baggie, Crabby said it beautifully, didn't she? Thanks always for dropping by. :)

• Thanks, Suldog. Perhaps the guitar got there of its own a-chord. 'Tis nothing to fret over, anyway. ;) Thanks for the visit. :)

• Beautifully stated, UmmFarouq. Thanks for your caring and thoughtful words. :)

• Thanks very kindly, Reb. I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. Your caring words are always very much appreciated. :)

• Thank you, Kat. Yes that tree is a good testament to nature's strengths for sure. Thanks for the kind words. :)

• Maggie, I'm glad that I was able to help solve your puzzle. :) Thanks for your kind words, but I would say that it's a much too early end to a life, but never a waste of her life when that was her dream career. Just as sad nonetheless. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• I totally agree, Andrea. Thanks so much for dropping by. :)

• Shammie, as mentioned earlier in my comment replies, I believe my son will address that point sometime soonish, if time permits. As for my musician son, no that's not his guitar. He plays the real thing. ;)

• Thank you kindly, Cath. I've missed you out here. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thank you so very much, Dianne. You're a gem. That's a lovely, warm and caring tradition. You always see, think and do the best. Thanks for that. Hugs right back at you! :)

• Thanks for your very thoughtful comments, Russell. You always take the time to note what you like best, and describe how you relate to a post. That's why you're such a fine blogger - you always have something of interest to say. Thanks always for the very kind words. :)

• Thanks for thinking of me again, DS. I'll check that out shortly. I especially appreciate the "no obligation" items, as I'm not very good at following up on those anyway. ;) Thanks :)

• Thanks so kindly, Protege. Your warm words always mean a lot to me. Thanks always for that, my friend. :)

• Thanks so much, Shrinky. I will most definitely give him a big hug for you. I'd love to see that photo sometime, so yes, please do dig it out, scan and post it sometime. Thanks very much for stopping by. :)

• Thanks very much, Terrie. Much appreciated. :)

Cedar said...

I want to live my life as determined as that tree.

Enjoy your time with your sons.

You know if you would have rescued that Guitar from that tree you would have been...wait for it...A Guitar Hero.

I never have and I hope I never do understand the rationale of war.

San said...

Your photographs of the determined tree are richly detailed, and yes, the tree seems metaphorical for humans who dig in despite the hard things life throws their way.

A welcome mat in the road? A guitar in a tree? Quirky.

Thank you for paying tribute to the servicemen who've given their lives.

And have a lovely week with your boys! May your older one see a welcome mat on every leg of his journey...

Tink said...

Do you know how much I want to tag you just because your comment section says not to? ;)

That fallen soldier tally is heartbreaking. Why can't we live peacefully with one another? Our time here is so short.

Reasons said...

That tree gives me hope for my poor body!

Perhaps someone was expecting an ET visit with that mat.

Have fun with the boys.

God bless the soldiers.

david mcmahon said...

You've embraced so many moods with this post, Hilary.

Anonymous said...


What a post! The tree is a fabulous picture of endurance, fortitude, standing. The mat meant to welcome guests, yet all alone, the guitar in a tree...

Enjoy your guys while they are home. I miss my boy (in the military) like crazy. I know you know how time with our kids flies to quickly!

I am very sorry to read about the young soldier who was her parents' only daughter...Oh...

HeatherPride said...

Wow. What a post. Everything struck me. What a remarkable tradition you have to honor your fallen soldiers.

And that tree....feels like me at the moment. How uplifting. Thank you.

JC said...

Great post. Love the tree and tribute to the fallen. Enjoy your boys.

Indrani said...

It is going to be in Pakistan next. So many brave soldiers laying down their lives just because of some men with medieval age thoughts.

Have a great time with your family. I wish him the best in life!

Congrats on POTD!

Tricia said...

I love all the metaphoric resistance of the tree and I'm so glad you're writing down the names!

Sniffles and Smiles said...

This is a terrific post! Very, very powerful!!!! "Wrong"--that word truly sums it all up! Congrats on POTD! Well-deserved!

Cheffie-Mom said...

Enjoy your special time with your boys this week.

My heart goes out to the families who have lost loved ones.

MamaGeek @ Works For Us said...

These truly are the days Hilary and I know you will enjoy this precious time.

K. said...

Very interesting and I also enjoyed the touching tribute...

Susan English Mason said...

I wish they could name the Highway of Heroes after her. Here in Arizona a Native American mother of two was killed in a roadside bombing and we named the state highway 51 after her. It's Piestewa Peak Highway and I drive it every work day and think of her. Congrats on the POTD nod from David. The photo I loved was the one of the trout with the reflection from the trees. What a great shot!

Chris said...

It's amazing how the tree is still alive (it looks like the trunk is contorted in pain). Perhaps the things you saw weren't entirely permanently wrong, they were just waiting to be corrected.

Hilary said...

• Thanks so much, Cedar. I share your sentiments, and you cracked me up with your Guitar Hero comment. Thanks for that. :)

• San, thank you so much for your lovely sentiments and wishes. So beautifully expressed. Much appreciated. :)

• Thanks, Tink. I totally agree. Just don't make me spork you by tagging me. ;)

• Thanks very much for your kind comments, 123. Very much appreciated. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks kindly for the visit, David and for including this post as one of your POTD selections. Much appreciated. :)

• MT, thank you always for your beatiful, insightful and eloquent comments. They mean a great deal to me. :)

• Thanks kindly, Heather. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks very much, JC. Much appreciated. :)

• Thanks very kindly, Indrani. I appreciate your kind thoughts. :)

• Thank you, Tricia - for the visit and the thughtful comments. :)

• Welcome, Sniffles and Smiles and thanks so much for the visit and for your comments. Much appreciated. :)

• Thanks kindly, Cheffie. I echo your sentiments. :)

• Thanks very much, MamaGeek. I know you get it. :)

• Welcome, Kirti and thanks for stopping by to comment. Much appreciated. :)

• Thanks very much for the kind words, Susan. The Highway of Heroes is indeed named after her, and the other 116 who have lost their lives in this way. Thanks so much for stopping by. :)

• Thanks for the visit, Chris. Your cup is definitely half full. Your perspective is very optimistic. Thanks for that. :)

Country Girl said...

All of it's wrong! But especially the last one. That one especially.

Jillian and / or Marley said...

you're wonderful! love these. you're story too, just perfect!

ps. check out our blog :)