'It's a constant in our lives': Nova Scotians mourn iconic tree felled by Fiona
The Stewiacke or Shubie tree was a beloved Bluenose icon
Amid the battered power poles and flooded homes ravaged by post-tropical storm Fiona, there was a smaller disaster that united Nova Scotians in a widespread outpouring of heartfelt sorrow.
"The one that signals a road trip, and welcomes you back home … is gone," wrote Amanda Dodsworth on Facebook.
"It had weathered an estimated 300 years of storms, but could not withstand this one. My heart it [sic] so sad that that tree will never welcome me home again."
The hurricane-strength winds that Fiona unleashed on the Atlantic provinces over the weekend felled the red oak that stood, alone and adored, in a field along Highway 102. Known as the Stewiacke or Shubie tree or sometimes simply "the tree," it has captivated Nova Scotians with its serene, solitary presence, seen by many as a welcoming sentinel on the commute between Truro and Halifax.
"Every time I post the tree, people would talk about what it meant to them," said Len Wagg, a local photographer who estimated he's taken thousands of photos of the tree.
"And it was always words like, it's home. It was words like, it's my touchstone. It's words like, I know things are gonna be OK when the tree's OK."
The red oak tree was an estimated 300 years old and has been photographed thousands of times by professionals and amateurs alike. It had a sturdy trunk under a near-perfect halo of spreading branches that were as elegant silhouetted against sunrise as they were dusted in fresh snow.
One of NS’s most photographed trees is gone after Fiona.<br>The big Oak tree off the highway by Shubie.<br>Thanks to wonderful photographer Simon D’Entremont for sending me this great photo he took.<br>Everyone calls it “their tree” <a href="https://t.co/kTzcEy7d10">pic.twitter.com/kTzcEy7d10</a>—@cbccolleenjones
Wagg said he went straight over to the field when he learned about the tree on Saturday morning and took photos of the former giant lying shattered and defeated on the soggy ground. His Facebook post has been shared nearly 4,000 times - along with photos and tributes by other photographers, all being shared with words of loving farewell.
"I LOVE that tree!" wrote Staci Cornett on Facebook. "I always felt like it symbolized bravery, strength and solitude to stand tall against the elements. It just goes to show that even the best can break."
The tree stood on private property, and the owners declined an interview with the CBC on Sunday.
Nooooooooooooooo. Damn you Fiona. <br>Our favourite tree in the province is gone. It was estimated to be 300 years old. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/fiona?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#fiona</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/storm?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#storm</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/halifaxnoise?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#halifaxnoise</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/tree?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#tree</a> <a href="https://t.co/Nn3pn8xrK3">pic.twitter.com/Nn3pn8xrK3</a>—@Len_Wagg_photo
Though the field was private, Wagg said the tree had nonetheless played a part in countless lives over many years.
"People have been married underneath that tree. People have gotten engaged underneath that tree," he said. "People have had their birthdays, you know, their kids' pictures taken underneath that tree. How many hundreds of thousands of trees came out this weekend, but … that one hit hard. It's a constant in our lives that's gone down."