While enjoying lemonade and mirchi pakoras on our dear friends Ritu and Pankaj’s deck, we took a break from solving the world’s problems and breathed in the lilac that perfumes the air this time of the year.

Looking up at another tree that provides a beautiful, lacy canopy, I told them of the silver maple that is struggling in the green space that our home backs on to.

It is one of a few that were transplanted a couple of years ago from a site that was marked for development.

When I had expressed joy at their being rescued instead of being turned into mulch, a wise old neighbour had said large trees tend not to do so well when they are dug up and plonked somewhere else.

“You will notice it struggle,” she said. “It might survive, but it will need a lot of care to make it thrive.”

Turns out, she was right.

The tree leafs each spring, but the growth is sparse and many of the branches bare.

I see other silver maples in the neighbourhood and with their lush growth, they look like they belong to another species altogether compared to these.  

“Give the tree a hug,” said Pankaj. I wasn’t sure if he was joking – I have been gently teased before by family and friends about being a “tree hugger”. But he was serious. “Just go and give it a hug every day, talk to it – it will feel the love,” he assured me.

Now I happen to be hugely inhibited about public displays of affection and the tree happens to be in a public space.

I wondered what neighbours looking out their windows, sipping their morning cup of coffee would think if they spotted me hugging the tree. But his words stayed with me and the next time we walked past the tree, I reached out and touched the bark. I didn’t exactly wrap my arms around it in a hug, but I patted it gently and said I hoped it would do better before scampering away, looking around to see if anyone had caught me in the act.

I do that more frequently now, with less self-consciousness. I don’t know if it has actually helped the tree, but I know that I feel good when I do so.

And I believe there’s an allegory here somewhere. Immigrants uproot and replant themselves in new soil. They need all the help and resources Canada provides, but also some TLC and nurturing. And perhaps a hug?

The federal government has set overall national landings targets at 330,000 for 2019, and 340,000 for 2020. That’s thousands of people who might need a hug.

Happy Canada Day!


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