Monday, August 22, 2011

Under the Shade of the Big Maple Tree at Barnum House

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Today’s Blog Post
Under the Shade of the Big Maple Tree at Barnum House
It is doubtful that you have heard of Eliakim Barnum. He moved to the Haldiman Township in 1807 which was located on the North Shore of Lake Ontario. That was 60 years before Canada was officially formed.

Eliakim Barnum was a loyal subject of Britain and when problems were developing between Britain and the United States of America in those early years he packed up his family in Vermont and head north and west.

He built his house from 1817 – 1819 on the main route from Kingston to York. York was Toronto’s original name.

The route is busy today with local people flying by on motorcycles and trucks with cars mixed into that roar. But most of the traffic is local from what I have witnessed. The tourist types that might enjoy the stillness of the Barnum House and property are rushing through Ontario a few miles north on the 401 Highway – the main arterial highway from Montreal to Toronto and Windsor.

Few people stop to see the treasure that sits quietly beside the Highway #2.

The ones that do are deeply thankful for the experience provided by the guides that work there.
Alida and I stepped back into time again as we arrived at Barnum House to begin an afternoon of demonstrating Lace Making and Wood Working. Specifically I was doing Tatting and operating the Spring Pole Lathe.

This was all happening under the shade of the gigantic Maple Tree that likely has been standing here since 1817 or earlier. It likely witnessed the burning down of the original house that stood on the property before Eliakim Barnum started to build. It was likely there the day that the British Soldiers were being billeted in the first house… and accidentally started the fire in the house.

The old tree has seen a lot over these almost two hundred years of standing on that spot.

From 1 PM to 4 PM we enjoyed the company of Reid and Gillian. Reid is a University of Ottawa student doing his studies in History and English. Gillian is a College Student preparing for Museum Studies. Barnum House is a perfect place for a summer job for both of these young adults.

I think the best part of the afternoon was getting to know these staff members at Barnum House. Sharing our laughter and stories with them was a delight under the large Maple Tree.

Local folk stopped by to look at the wares that we had laid out on the tables under the tree. They took part in the half hour tour that the guides provided. They also sat to have tea under the old Maple Tree.

At one point when it was quiet I stopped the wood turning on my Spring Pole Lathe and looked up at the mighty branches above me. On my lathe I had a beautiful piece of Maple that I was turning. The grain was bright and distinct. The shape of the small vase that I was turning was coming out very nicely.

The huge tree smiled. I am sure of it. After all these years of standing there faithfully and doing its job to provided shade it has almost been forgotten. Yet yesterday people gathered again to enjoy it and all that it provided.

It wasn’t a bright sunny day… rather it was over cast and rain was threatening the whole afternoon with clouds rolling by. Instead of blocking the sun’s rays… it stopped the rain from coming through the millions of Maple Leaves over head. The Old Tree was acting at times as an umbrella for us.

Yesterday was perfect for me personally. I was far, far away from the painful days that had happened before. The funeral on Saturday had taken its toll on my life. Other things that were pressing in around me to get done had to wait. Struggles from the old days, that were pressed forward again from the old jobs, had come swirling by as well.

Yesterday under the giant Maple all the traffic of my life was moved aside. I relaxed and stood again. My life was restored on this special Sunday afternoon. The Old Tree had helped one more person to find sanity again.

With its two hundred years of experience it does a great job.

The season for Barnum House is about to close. The students will go back to University and College. The doors will be closed again for another year. But all through these coming months, the change in the color of the leaves, the snow and the sleet that will come, the Old Maple Tree will be waiting for next summer and the return of the people that need to sit under it again. It will guard the house for yet another year.

What a happy place to be.

A special Thank You to Reid and Gillian for the time you gave me yesterday. Thank You to the Ontario Heritage folk in Toronto, whoever you might be. Your foresight and vision to keep this house as an Ontario Treasure has not been overlooked.

One Old Maple tree and One Old House want me to say Thank You for another wonderful year.

~ Murray Lincoln ~

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