Charles is a quiet man – reflecting more of himself in the landscape than in conversation. I had mentioned my brief interview with him to a few neighbors, commenting on his 40-year residency in the park – and not too many folks knew much about him. But if you’ve ever taken a reprieve from the hot sun under one of the many pines lining the west side of the Mapleton Mobile Home Park on Folsom, or around our neighborhood, you’ve likely rested beneath one of his hand planted and cared for trees. In 1981, Charles moved into Mapleton and started making a life for himself in his 1964 Medallion. “I’ve been fixing it up the way I like it ever since.” He said of his 450 square foot mobile home. When he first moved into Mapleton, the park was owned by Lou Nutall, who allowed Charles to start planting trees throughout the property. “Most of the trees I planted were Austrian Pines, because they were readily available at the local nursery. Then I spent the next ten years watering them and caring for them until they were established enough to go on their own.”As many of us in the park know, growing roots in a community provides stability, but it can also be a way to share a little bit of ourselves with others. The opportunity to have a place to grow into and to reflect back on how a place has shaped us and also how we’ve shaped a place, is very much a privilege not often afforded to many under resourced people and families.
Keith Basso in, Wisdom Sits in Places, writes, “attachments to geographic localities contribute fundamentally to the formation of personal and social identities.” Since the interview, I think about Charles often as I sit beneath the Austrian Pine in my front yard – it has become less of a visual location of my house and more a feeling that I am home, and I am grateful to him for helping to grow a place that so many of us call home.