By: Bethani Bell
“You know almost every day when I’m out here someone will pull up and they’ll roll down their window and say, ‘I love your tree!’ It makes me so happy, I have so much fun doing this.” That is just a small part of what the “Tree for All Seasons,” has not only done for the Martin Drive neighborhood but the care and love it holds from Jerry Burns.
Even after being down for 6 months Jerry’s “Tree for All Seasons” continues to grow with new hidden gems for all to enjoy. Whether that be just a look or an exchange of new wonders, this tree certainly does not disappoint. Located on the corner of 45th and Vliet, this tree stands with much curiosity and enthusiasm for all to see. Jerry originally started the tree about a year and half ago, explaining how this tree originally came about. “What happened was you know how the day after Christmas, all of a sudden you see Christmas trees out at the curb because people have taken off to Florida or something…I had an extra Christmas stand and I plopped down the real Christmas tree on the corner and I had some ornaments… So, I slapped them on there and then put up the signs that have been there since.”
The original tree had lasted for a while through Valentine’s Day in February to Saint Patrick’s Day in March but sadly did not make it to Easter. But that did not stop Jerry. “I call it my ‘Tree for all Seasons’ for every holiday that comes along.” With this being such a community affair, a neighbor sold Jerry some plywood to make a new rendition of the original tree we see now. With a few adjustments and stabilizations, over time it all came together humbly. “It started as kind of a lark and then kind of developed very organically which is what I like about it, I didn’t foresee it.”
If there is a holiday to celebrate and embrace Mr. Burns has it covered. This makes the experience more inviting and liberating for all walks of life. “For April it was the Poet Tree. I had about 40 and it was the same deal, and this was the most interactive one. I said, ‘Take a poem and/or leave a poem. ‘I had a suggestion box here; I say there was about a dozen people who suggested poems they would like to see on there.”
Jerry is very crafty and since being young it has always been a hobby of his to be handy and produce new creations. With a little push and teasing from his brothers at an early age he found a lot of joy and curiosity in his new creations.
There are many intricate parts to the “Tree for All Seasons.” You have the Little Library where anyone can take a book or leave a book of their choosing. There is also the Toy Swap Shop and Little Pantry, one of Jerry’s newest additions to the tree. Jerry explains that “There’s been a lot of interplay, people take things and other people leave things.” He discussed further the impacts it has on had on the community recounting the story of a young man who came over to personally thank him for his generosity. The “Tree for All Seasons,” has spread farther than just the Near West Side, prompting WTMJ 4 to come out and chat with Mr. Burns about his tree. “The biggest affirmation I got was right after Christmas WTMJ dedicated a whole 2 minutes to it.”
In June, Jerry’s focus was on the Herbal aspects of the tree and Juneteenth. With the help of a few neighbors and his own gardening, a sizable number of herbs have been added to the tree. Some of those include cilantro, chives, parsley, dill, and a couple of others.
A few words that Jerry would like to leave with those who may live on the corner of their block or just want to add a little passion and beauty to their neighborhood. “Being a corner dweller, I almost think that to live on a corner you pretty much have to have more public spiritedness than the average person. It’s not sequestered, or you can’t hide in a corner. Here’s what I would say, take the corner dwellers challenge. If you live on a corner, what can you do to make the whole block better?”