Telling the tale of age and trees 

Louise Cecil's photo book shows the beauty of Pacific Northwest trees and the value of elders

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Tree Lines Louise Cecil has written and photographed a book that pays tribute to the timelessness of the region's tree and to the value of seniors.
  • Photo submitted
  • Tree Lines Louise Cecil has written and photographed a book that pays tribute to the timelessness of the region's tree and to the value of seniors.

Louise Cecil opens her book of photography with a hopeful quote by the Irish poet W.B. Yeats:

"If what I say resonates with you, it's merely because we are both branches on the same tree."

What she wants to resonate and connect with readers is the subject matter of Out on a Limb — a small coffee-table book of images of Pacific Northwest trees that is dedicated to "tree spirits" everywhere.

"I believe trees need our protection and sustainability," Cecil says. "They provide us with life-giving oxygen, shade and moisture for comfort, protection from landslides and erosion, bi-products for our homes. They also provide habitats and food for many creatures."

What she also wanted to include was the story of humans as they mature into seniors, a connection she saw with the trees.

"I'm honouring old-growth forest and elders," says Cecil, who is a senior herself.

"I've had a lot of experiences at my age. I've been through a lot of stuff, a lot of ups and downs, sadness and joys. You get a perspective with age and you quiet down and let that happen. You're not rushing around."

She originally started the book thinking of the whole life cycle of trees, but had an epiphany.

"I woke up in the middle of one night, which is normally when I do most of my creative thinking, and I thought it should be about seniors. We have a great deal to offer," she says.

She was part of an enrichment program at a Vancouver elementary school and decided to bring in grandparents to interact with the children. She says it was a wonderful experience for the seniors and the children.

"I thought, 'One day, I am going to do something with this,' and that is why the book leans towards seniors, though any age can enjoy it," Cecil says.

"I believe that there should be greater respect for elders and in many cultures that is the case, but sometimes here (in Canada), older people fall through the cracks."

To that end, the words that accompany the photos reflect the profound changes of aging and include quotes by Lily Tomlin, Marguerite Duras and Abraham Lincoln.

A photographer for many years, Cecil spent five years on the book and brought in award-winning author Kathy Scalzo to help with the wordsmithing.

"When I got to the writing, I felt as though I needed somebody else's input so it wouldn't be insular," Cecil says.

A resident of Vancouver, Cecil has also had a home in Whistler since 1993. The resort figures heavily in the book.

"There are so many photographs from the Whistler area in it. It is interesting when someone from Whistler looks at it, they know where certain photos were taken," she says.

"So it's fun visually, as well as when you are thinking about the meaning it might have for you."

Cecil and Scalzo will be at a book signing at White Dog Gallery on Saturday, March 14, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Out on a Limb is also available at Armchair Books in Whistler Village. Price is $30.

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