cherry blossom

A Long-Awaited Hug

Love pours down on Joy Kogawa’s cherry tree

Sometimes all you have to do is ask. Earlier this winter volunteers at Historic Joy Kogawa House asked knitters from across Vancouver to help them cheer up the dying cherry tree that stands just outside the back gate at 1450 West 64th Avenue in Vancouver.

“The 60-year-old tree was leaking sap, branches had been snapped by passing trucks—it really looked sad this winter,” said Ann-Marie Metten, executive director of the writing program that welcomes writers to live and write at the house for three months each year.

But soon the tree will be a cloud of pink blossoms and an early sign of spring. On Sunday, March 6, 2 to 3:30pm, local knit graffiti artists Leanne Prain and Mandy Moore, authors of Yarn Bombing: The Art of Knit and Crochet Graffiti (Arsenal, 2010), will cover the tree with knitted blossoms. A fire truck and fire fighters from Fire Hall No. 22 will be on hand to lift the writers into the tree so they can safely sew blossoms in place.

Knitters from across Greater Vancouver have come together to knit and crochet pink blossoms over the past two months. Knit-ins have filled the tiny living room of the 1912 bungalow that Joy Kogawa writes about in her children’s picture book, Naomi’s Tree, a story of friendship, forgiveness, remembering, and love.

A knit-in Monday night in Council Chambers at Vancouver City Hall had volunteers sitting in Councillors’ chairs as they spun pink yarn into delicate blossoms. Young knitters at Bowen Island Community School crafted beautiful blossoms under the guidance of local knitter Anne Mann, who brought friends in to help the students with their knitting.

Blossoms have arrived in packages from Oregon and California, from across Canada, and from as far away as Kingscliff, New South Wales. “The most rewarding moment was when three small children arrived at the house and lifted a branch full of blossoms from the hatchback of their mother’s car,” Metten says. The little cherry tree survived yesterday’s wind and rain, and stands planted in the front garden at the house.

It is the mother tree standing behind the house that on Sunday will show signs of the love that knitters and writers have showered upon it.

Media interviews with the knit graffiti artists are welcome before Sunday’s event. Thanks to Shaw Multicultural Channel, our media sponsor.

Yarn Bombing at Historic Joy Kogawa House

Help writing blossom at Historic Joy Kogawa House! Join Leanne Prain and Mandy Moore, co-authors of the book Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti (Arsenal Pulp Press), as we cover the Joy Kogawa cherry tree in hundreds of knitted blossoms.

You are invited to come and knit or crochet pink cherry blossoms to help cover this historic tree, whose story is told in Joy Kogawa’s Naomi’s Tree, a picture book about friendship. Knitters and crocheters of all levels are welcome to attend these FREE events.

Join one of these two community knit-ins at the Historic Joy Kogawa House, 1450 West 64th Avenue, Vancouver, on:

Sunday, January 23, 2 to 3:30pm
Saturday, February 5, 2 to 3:30pm

Or help to stitch all of the cherry blossoms into place at Historic Joy Kogawa House on:

Sunday, March 6, 2 to 3:30pm

Leanne and Mandy will entertain stitchers with daring tales of yarn bombing feats from around the world, books will be available for sale and signing, and refreshments will be served. Yarn and needles will be provided; however, donations of pink yarn are appreciated!

Can’t make it to the event? Mail in your knitted or crocheted cherry blossoms to be added to the tree, as follows:

Historic Joy Kogawa House
1450 West 64th Avenue
Vancouver, B.C. V6P 2N4

Or drop your blossoms in the covered bin you’ll find just down the steps from the sidewalk in front of the house at 1450 West 64th Avenue. Submissions will be accepted up until March 1, 2011. All cherry blossoms should be made out of pink yarn. Patterns to use are available here.

For more information see our Facebook page or visit

Cherry tree blossoms at Kogawa House

Cherry Blossoms at Kogawa House

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.



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