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Friday, 28 April 2017 20:04

Sarnia-area artists set to eulogize fallen ash trees in Canatara Park this weekend

MaryAbma

Bright's Grove artist Mary Abma is pictured here along what she's calling the Ash Tree Memorial Trail in Canatara Park. Abma will holding a memorial service and trail tour Saturday as part of a four-year-long art project to commemorate Canatara's fallen ash trees. (Barbara Simpson/Sarnia Observer/Postmedia Network)

Mary Abma is giving a whole new meaning to the burial prayer ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

The Bright's Grove artist will hosting a public memorial service this weekend for Canatara Park's ash trees – part of a four-year long art project to commemorate the forgotten victims of the life-sucking emerald ash borer.

Abma will be joined by several Sarnia-area poets and musicians Saturday to celebrate the lives of these ash trees through story and song at the Seaway Kiwanis Pavilion in Canatara park.

Once the formal service is over, Abma will lead fellow mourners through 'Tarzanland' – a section of forest in Canatara Park hit hard by the emerald ash borer – to pay their respects in person.

Mourners are invited to leave birdseed offerings at each of the 14 different locations on the tour and visit online memorial pages Abma has created for each location.

“It's an opportunity for the community to come together and eulogize the ash, so it's like a memorial service for the ash,” she aid of Saturday's event.

And her ambitious celebration of Canatara's fallen ash trees doesn't end there.

Artifacts made by Abma, using ashes and other materials from the trees, will be on display at the Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery through to May 14.

Inspired by Victorian mourning practices, those artifacts include hair art made out of ash tree curls and cabinet cards made from digital photographs.

“Another thing I made is tear-catching bottles, which they use to wear around their neck, and the idea is they'd fill these bottles with their tears when they were in mourning and they'd then wear them until their tears completely dried up and that would signal the end of the mourning period,” Abma said.

A lifelong environmentalist, Abma – who also teaches at Sarnia Christian School – was inspired to create the art project following a drive down Highway 402 when she noticed how the emerald ash borer has devastated woodlots along there.

She decided to call up Larry Cornelius, of Lambton Wildlife, and he took her on a tour of Canatara Park's 'Tarzanland' so she could see the devastation locally.

“When I first started the project, (Canatara's ash trees) were dying and before I knew it, they were culling them and chopping the tops off of them at Canatara, and so I became familiar with them and then I started thinking, 'Why don't we register a loss of this scale?'” she said.

Part of it, she believes, is due to the fact that few people know how to spot an ash tree.

“I have to admit when I went into this, I couldn't even tell you what an ash tree looked like, and I think a lot of people are like that, and I think it's now missing from our environment.

“It's like the face of a person who died. You try to call it back in focus and it's hard sometimes.”

She hopes her project will educate the public about ash trees and the impact of emerald ash borers – a life-sucking bug, native to Asia, that just came to North America in 2002.

“If I can accomplish that people start paying attention to their surroundings and start seeing trees as something we need to protect – especially in the face now of the Asian long-horned beetle that's coming our way – I think then I will feel (my project has) done something positive.”

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IF YOU GO

What: Memorial service for Canatara's ash trees, featuring performances and a nature hike through 'Tarzanland'

When: Saturday. Performances start at 10 a.m., followed by a hike through Tarzanland at 11 a.m.

Where: Canatara Park, 1200 Lake Chipican Dr., Sarnia

Original Article: http://www.theobserver.ca/2017/04/27/sarnia-area-artists-set-to-eulogize-fallen-ash-trees-in-canatara-park-this-weekend