Maple Leaf Forever
On July 19th 2013, Toronto experienced what meteorologists call a “severe weather event.” The storm’s high winds led to more than 1,400 calls to the city about downed trees, branches and other damage. Sadly, one of the calls was about a silver maple at 62 Laing Street in Toronto. This tree, around 170 years old, is said to have been the inspiration for the song The Maple Leaf Forever, written by Alexander Muir in 1867.
No ordinary song, The Maple Leaf Forever was at one time Canada’s unofficial national anthem. Today it is the authorized regimental march of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and the Royaintro-blul Westminster Regiment.
The City of Toronto decided to commemorate the tree and its place in Canadian history by utilizing every piece of it. Heritage groups and art organizations approached the city with proposals. Our Association was one of the first such groups to step forward. OWCA was given a section of the tree’s main branch about seven feet long and thirty inch at the bottom. The piece has character: it was a cozy home for a raccoon family, has some holes, and in some places the usable wood is less than one inch thick.
But carvers recognize imperfections like these as creative challenges. Our artistic approach features 35 maple leaves, each containing a relief carving of an important person, place or event in Toronto’s history. Historians from Archeological Services Inc.and Heritage Toronto assisted us to choose subjects.
Carving the Maple Leaf Forever Tree
The trunk was debarked, cleaned up, then moved inside at the Ontario Science Centre. Carving officially began on Canada Day, July 1st, 2014. Volunteers from the Ontario Wood Carvers Association will now take about a year (roughly 6,000 carver-hours) to complete the project, and then the finished sculpture will go on permanent display at the Science Centre.
Leaf #1 – Legend of the Sky Woman
By Fred and Marlene Ash
(work in progress)
…Sky Woman who was pregnant was gathering seeds when she fell through a hole in the sky where Sky People lived. As she was falling a flock of birds was sent to help her. The birds caught her and gently guided her down onto the back of the Great Turtle. Later the creatures in the sea brought her mud to make the earth. This the first story of the tree.
Leaf #2 – Environment – Mouth of the Rouge River
By Emma Perlaky (modeling phase)
The early environment is shown, where much later, Toronto developed. The waters (rivers and lakes, the swamps), the grasses, the woods, groves and bushes, supported wildlife and some native inhabitants.