Cherry Blossoms at Kogawa House
Joy Kogawa outside Kogawa House in Marpole 2005. “Photo-Dan Toulgoet, Vancouver Courier” – used by permission
The cherry blossoms have been out everywhere in Vancouver since late
March. In mid-April I was driving through Vancouver's
Marpole neighborhood, when I thought I should go visit Joy Kogawa's
childhood home at 1450 West 64th Ave.
It had been back the summer of 2005, when I had received an e-mail from
Ann-Marie Metten that Joy Kogawa's beloved cherry tree was diseased and
dying. She and a group that included then Vancouver city councillor
Jim Green, gathered grafts from the cherry tree to try to preserve it
for future incarnations – because it was feared that the owner would
not give up the house.
This was the house that the Save Kogawa House Committee,
which I was part of, had worked so hard to save from demolition, when
the owner decided to draw up plans to demolish the house and build a
new one. It was an intensive awareness campaign from September to
December when The Land Conservancy of BC decided
to step in and take on this project, deeming it a worthy Vancouver
landmark of cultural and historical importance. Then it was from
December until May, as we tried to raise funds to save the house…
almost taking a mortgage out before an anomynous donor stepped in with
almost $300,000 to allow TLC to purchase the house.
But now the task is to continue raising funds and awareness to both
renovate the home and restore it to the qualities it had before Joy and
her family were forced to leave their house due to enforced internment
of Japanese Canadians during WW2 – even though they were born in
Canada! We also want to build an endowment and create a
writers-in-residence program as well as community programming.
Last spring, Joy was living in Vancouver, and she went to visit the
cherry tree to find a few spare blossoms. The tree was
sickly. At the open house in September – Joy placed manure around
the tree's base, spoke kind words and blessings for the tree. Joy
soon returned to Toronto, but has returned to Vancouver briefly for
Christmas with her daughter and grandchildren and recently at the end
of March to see relatives and to give a reading for the Alcuin Society
at Kogawa House on March 30th.
I drove past the front of the house… everything looks nice, except the white picket fence has fallen down.
I drove around the back of the house… and saw a most beautiful sight. The cherry tree was in full bloom.
It is like the tree (and the house) knows it has a new life. It is an old tree but heavy and full with blossoms.
Beautiful… I know if Joy saw the tree with its blossoms, there would be tears of happiness in her eyes.