The Shawshank Redemption is my favourite movie. Unfortunately, though, I’ve missed my chance to make a pilgrimage to the tree to see it for myself.
I get that it was just a movie, and I get that the tree was just a location scouted for the movie, so that there is really nothing profound about it, beyond being a beautiful old tree.
That said, when a movie deeply affects me in some way, I like to go to places depicted in that movie to touch base.
I’ve been to Tombstone, AZ now, several times, using USGS maps to pinpoint and visit the ruins of the adobe ranchhouse once occupied by the Clantons. I’ve traipsed the desert to visit the now-ghost town of Charleston, which played prominently in the Clanton-Earp/OK Corral saga. I’ve even driven out to visit Johnny Ringo’s gravesite, buried as he was right where his body was found on July 13, 1882, less than 4 months after the Vendetta Ride that made Wyatt Earp famous.
Shawshank is another animal. It’s fiction, but its message of resilience, friendship and most of all, hope still resonates so deeply with me.
You’ll recall that Andy Dufresne’s dream is to escape and get to Zihatanejo, Mexico, and buy a little boat to take tourists fishing. My wife and I have vacationed in Zihuatanejo twice now – not in Ixtapa, which is only a few kms further north along the beach. We did this knowing that the closing scene in the film was shot in the US Virgin Islands or some place. That’s not the point, because we imagined that we had “made it” to this free paradise and had a great time! Also, margaritas.
One pilgrimage I’d always hoped to do was to the site where the famous scene in the film where Red finds the clue that Andy has left. I’ve already located and dropped a pin in Google Maps at the location of the tree and stone wall, but unfortunately, the tree is no more.
It was struck by lightening in a 2011 storm, and had been rotting out from the inside, in spite of efforts to preserve it in some way. Finally, over the weekend, the owner of the private farm where the tree is located had it chopped down and hauled away.
Shawshank Trail (@ShawshankTrail on Twitter) documented it for posterity.
Now, the only way to commune with the tree is by watching the movie. Luckily for me, I have it on my computer, and it’s on TV several times a month…and I watch at least part of it every time.
Shawshank is not just my favourite movie, but the final scene’s message of hope is still my favourite in all of filmdom.
Get busy livin’…