Visions and memories and a small oak tree

We are planning the R&D project The Story Caravan in Ekenäs Finland, for which we got a grant from the European Cultural Foundation. We have now started to experiment and explore our story telling method which combine visions and history and to ponder on the best way to collect and analyze the material.

To our surprise we are finding it hard to explain to collaboration partners why we want the residents of Ekenäs to share both memories (with or without photos) and visions. This has lead to interesting discussions in our project team and with partners.

Our first guinea pig was my brother Romi who told us about a memory of a small oak tree which still grows close to where our family had the motor boat in the South bay marina in Ekenäs when we were children. I have no memories of this tree but since Romi all his life has been interested in trees (he is now a forester) this tree has become imprinted in his memory. This tree happenes to grow very close to the concrete wall on which he used to walk while our family was in the harbor preparing the boat in the spring and fall and before going out to and coming back from our summer house in the Ekenäs archipelago (you can listen to the story here).

In this photo the oak tree – even if it is not big – is much taller and wider than it was 50 years ago. It has since been trimmed many times to not disturb the traffic on the road on the other side of the wall.

For a passer-by who hasn’t grown up with the oak tree and who doesn’t have these memories this particular oak tree does not mean very much – it’s one tree among millions and millions in Finland – but for Romi and the folks at the park service, who have cared for the tree for more than half a century, this tree means something special – it is the small oak tree by the concrete wall in the South harbor.
The city has been planning a major makeover of the harbor with a plan to enlarge the amount of parking places and piers. This prompted a storm of protests by the residents at a community meeting where the plan was presented last year. The oak tree was maybe not threatened this time but without the knowledge of the story of oak tree it might as well have been.

With the story of the oak tree by a concrete wall in a harbor and what it has meant to a small boy growing up in Ekenäs I am trying to illustrate why we believe in combining memories and visions in our R&D project The Story Caravan. We are looking forward to an ongoing conversation about this during the coming year and are very much looking forward to testing our storytelling model in which we, with various artistic and ethnographic methods, will combine stories from the past with visions for the future.



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