The campus canopy has many benefits & it's a good time to check in with these trees. As with public spaces everywhere, social life on campus has evaporated. Few people are walking among the trees and connecting with the greenery - an invitation extended by the acrostic poems created in the winter of 2019 by Anna Young, with photographs by Ryan Pugh. I asked Anna a few questions about her project and what she thinks about the trees on campus now that we aren't spending so much time with them.
Anna, you finished this project in the winter of 2019. What's it like for you to see this project published now?
Anna: Working on this project, I had no idea how different campus would look now. My intention was to tell a unique story with each of the five trees, yet connect them. Some of the poems, especially "Silver Maple" and "Flowering Cherries," deal with the idea of isolation and inherent loneliness. Kind of interesting, then, that campus should be so empty now, and each of us students and faculty facing a measure of isolation.
We tend to think of trees as isolated; however, we know that a forest is an organism, and that trees communicate with each other in various ways. Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees helped popularize these ideas. Do you think we have something to learn from trees about how we view ourselves as individuals?
I’m an individualistic person, but even I recognize the need for a support network! I think knowing the forest for each of its trees, while recognizing the greater organism, can apply to people as well. You’re not giving up individualism when you accept how connected you are to others — after all, nothing happens in a vacuum. It’s important to note how your behavior as an individual affects those around you.
What is your hope for Campus Canopy Acrostics?
I hope these poems can serve as a reminder to maintain ties to campus — as a place, but more importantly as a community — and to each other. And, of course, I hope everyone can visit these trees at some point so they don't get too lonely.