Evan Vacarr pours ceremonial water on a red maple named after his friend Angus McConnon, who died suddenly earlier this year.
PLATTSBURGH — First, they asked the Earth permission to dig a hole.
In that hole, they placed a red maple, one of three such trees that day in the City of Plattsburgh.
They named the trees too, calling one Angus after a young man who passed shortly before graduating from Plattsburgh State.
“Angus (McConnon) liked trees,” said Evan Vacarr, in tears as he spoke of his friend. “I miss him.”
The tree planting on the green area between Margaret and Durkee streets was an environmental action by the local group People for Positive Action. More than 30 people showed up under the rain to plant the trees, as well as share poetry, song and ideas.
“The concept is to share a sacred space and plant trees downtown and build a community,” said Linda Marie Hill.
One of Shaun O’Connell’s focuses when joining People for Positive Action was the environment, which resulted in her participation in a nationwide contest to win a grant through the environmental group 350.org. Her tree-planting idea didn’t win but came in sixth in the nation.
“We decided to go ahead anyway and just started from scratch and came up with the idea to pay for them through a raffle,” O’Connell said.
Next thing O’Connell knew, local business Cook and Gardener donated a tree.
“We wanted strong shade trees, so we settled on red maples,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell needed a spot and began searching around Plattsburgh, at first investigating the bank between the Plattsburgh farmers market and the Saranac River, but it was overgrown. Then, she turned and noticed the green area between Durkee and Margaret streets.
The area is often used to host music in the summer and vines cover the sides of buildings nearby.
She decided two trees would be planted near Margaret Street and the other closer to Durkee, but she had to get permission from the City of Plattsburgh first.
The Common Council gave O’Connell the go ahead, but she still needed signatures from several agencies, a process that lasted up until the tree planting, which was expected to draw up to 100 people.
The sky was dark overhead the day of the planting. A light rain wet the ground as people gathered under a small tent while others held umbrellas and some simply stood in the rain as people shared stories, poetry and song about inspirational environmental efforts around the world.
Jeff Cochran led everyone in a tree-planting ritual that consisted of verse and body movement, outlining the connection between humans and nature and the body and trees.
“Trees pull the sky to the Earth for us,” Cochran said.
Vacarr shared stories about his friend, saying they often hiked together and his friend seemed to have a special bond with nature.
“This is a beautiful, symbolic and practical action to quite literally save the planet,” O’Connell said of the tree planting. “Global climate change is being caused by human beings.
“I wanted to bring the community together to bring a symbolic change to Plattsburgh, and I wanted everyone to have their voices heard.”