Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Features · The marriage tree
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The marriage tree

Jolynn Paige - January 21st, 2008
After 20 years of marriage, Ian and Nancy Ashken are still deeply in love - with life, with each other, with their family… and with the Leelanau Peninsula. Ian and Nancy are also dedicated environmentalists, in love with the idea of planting trees, and with the idea of what is known as the Marriage Tree Project.
Ian, a gentle, quiet soul who’s quick to smile and speaks with a charming British accent (he grew up in Norkfolk, England), explains. “We decided that what we wanted to do to commemorate our 20th anniversary was to place two trees – one for each of us – on our property.”
The couple recently purchased a 46-acre Omena Cherry farm, which they will preserve, continue to farm, and use for future summer gatherings and get-aways.
Last August, on a perfect summer afternoon, Ian and Nancy, with their children and several other friends and family members looking on, restated their marriage vows.

Standing in a large circle in front of their farmhouse, the old red barn in the back ground, the sound of wind in the orchard branches around them, Nancy read a poem – e. e. cumming’s “i carry your heart with me.” She was tranquil, clear, and beautiful as she read.
Their twelve-year old son, Jonathon, read a passage from “The Giving Tree,” by Shel Silverstein. Emily, Ian and Nancy’s fourteen-year-old daughter, looked on, smiling, and hooking her arm around her mother’s arm. The entire family was radiating with the grace and peace of knowing that what they are doing is right and good.
David Milarch, president of Champion Tree Project International,
a non-profit group dedicated to pre-serving America’s tree heritage, spoke to the gathering about the importance of what Ian and Nancy are doing by planting trees.
“Trees give us hope for the future of a healthy environment because they are able to filter off all the garbage that is currently in our atmosphere. I commend you, Ian and Nancy, for helping the world grow stronger by planting these trees,” said Milarch.
Milarch is internationally recognized as a leader in the cloning and planting of champion trees. He’s been featured the past several years in a series of articles in the New York Times and the Washington Post.
After Milarch speaks, the family hops in their jeep, which has been decorated for the occasion, champagne flutes in hand, and heads for “the spot.”
Ian leads his bride to look on as the children and others start digging the hole where the two champion trees – Norway maples, cloned from a tree from Empire, Michigan - will grow for years to come. The honored couple then each pick up a shovel and start digging along with their children, joking, and happy as they do so.
Then, with the help of Milarch and his team, the trees are placed in their new homes. Ian holds up his glass and makes a toast.
“To Nancy,” he says.

Ashken’s words and actions mean a lot: He is the chief financial officer, director, and vice-chairman of the board at Jarden Corporation, based in Rye, New York - a Fortune 500 company. When he speaks, people have a tendency to listen. He could choose to dedicate himself to just about any cause – but one of his favorites is the marriage tree project.
“A friend of ours, Terry Stanton, has long-time ties to Leelanau County. He’s very involved with reforesting efforts in Leelanau, and he also knows that in the 19th century, many homesteaders in the area planted trees when they got married. Many of those trees are still standing today. We just thought this was an incredible concept,” Ian said.
Nancy added, “Trees are so symbolic of strength, love, stability, tenderness, and giving. Ian and I thought this gift to each other to be the most beautiful and meaningful way we could express our love for each other and our commitment to the environment.”
Whatever the future holds for re-instituting the old tradition of planting marriage trees, Ian and Nancy can be proud that they have help lead the way to make a difference.
“It is our hope that other couples – from newlyweds to those commemorating anniversaries – may realize that reforestation is critical to our long time future.”

For more information go to
The Champion Tree Project at

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