The videographer slams the brakes on the truck when he spots the tree on the rock. Its tall trunk seems to be growing out of a large rock despite a lack of soil or any sign of roots. Unfortunately, the owner of the Haultain Street property isn’t home. So we leave and continue our search for a story for the end of the six o’clock news.
We drive around for two unsuccessful hours before I suggest we return to the tree. The videographer starts getting shots, including the large cracks that radiate from where the trunk appears glued to the rock. A few cyclists ride by. One woman suggests the tree “is from another planet.” Another declares its survival against all odds “is kind of inspiring.”
Unfortunately, the property owner is still away – so we get ready to leave again. But just as we’re about to get back in the truck, I have an overwhelming urge to go for a walk instead. The videographer apprehensively follows, and 30 seconds later the owner pulls into her driveway. If I hadn’t listened to my gut we would have missed the story.
Pili tells us that people ask her about the tree in the rock daily. She says it began as a small sapling that her husband brought home unexpectedly. She didn’t want him to plant it in the yard because it would grow too big and be too messy. So she suggested he place it on the rock instead, where she assumed it would die. Despite decades of no special treatment, it’s thriving. Pili calls it “amazing.”
Then – just as we’re getting ready to leave for the third time – Melissa walks by. She tells us she grew up next door to the tree-on-the-rock and just happened to visit this afternoon because she says, “when I really feel like thinking, I go and sit there.” And if there was ever a time that Melissa could benefit from being with the tree, it’s now. “It’s been a really tough year,” she says.“I’m trying to figure out what to do with my life.”
Melissa climbs up to the top of the rock and reveals she’s been dealing with death, illness and the expectations of family and friends.
On the rock, Melissa is offered a new perspective: “The things that seem big are maybe not so big.” Beside the tree, she says she’s empowered by its unseen roots that have cracked the rock: “It makes me think I’m strong too.”
She says she’s inspired by the resilience of a tree that’s thrived against all odds. “I feel alive and beautiful.”
Adam Sawatsky is an anchor at CTV News Vancouver Island. On the weekend, he hosts ‘Eye on the Arts’ on CFAX 1070.