Tree Fairy Tales for the your holidays…..

A little Tree Fairy kept me grounded through a month of windstorms, power outages, health challenges for both Mike and I,  and the usual “what do we want to do about Christmas”.  I shared her through a series of stories on social media. For those who do not interact with me on social media, I want to share her here and hope you find her to be a bit of delight in your life.

She and I wish for you Happy Holidays! Happy Christmas! Happy New Year! Happy Hearts!

Tree Fairy came to me with her little potted tree, which I offered to decorate, but she ONLY wanted candles, no other decorations. She was VERY particular!

I don’t argue with fairies.

The next day she comes back and wants me to decorate a big deciduous tree, saying they’re the ones needing color in winter and mumbling something about people decorating conifers, already green & pretty.

I told her the Alders and Big Leaf Maples here were too tall to decorate. She gave me a cross look. .

I decorated an alder for her.

Tree Fairy loves her trees but can be very grumpy about people.

On December 9th I told Tree Fairy about Worldwide Candle Lighting Day. She became very sad thinking of young children who have died. She doesn’t tolerate adults well, but she loves children, helping them when she can.

She went and got a very large candle (for her, she’s only 3 1/2″ tall), then left to go into the woods to light her candle and be with her beloved trees.

She too has lost many loved ones this year. .

She told me the souls of all little ones who die, of any species, go to a beautiful forest in a heavenly world. I don’t know how she knows this.

Tree Fairy did not return until Friday when she came to say Happy Solstice! In good spirits, she looks forward to the coming light, knowing her beloved trees will appreciate the longer days, some already budding in anticipation. She brought some friends (not sure who they are, seemed rude to ask, I believe they are tiny seed fairies). .

She’s returned to her trees, we’ve had wind storm after wind storm, she wants to help those who got hurt.

She is happiest amongst her trees, she said come visit wherever you go to be with trees. She loves people who love her trees.

Those that don’t. Well, a cross fairy has her ways…….she is a warrior!

To see more of my recent and seasonal botanical creations check out page two of “Flora Mandalas”

Arbor Day Giants

spring flowers

It’s a day to celebrate the trees.  If you plan to hug a tree, you might choose the majestic Big Leaf Maple, a native to the west coast. You would, however, have a challenge getting your arms around these gentle giants.  They are pollinating this week, covering everything in a fine yellow dust. The pollen settles on every surface and outlines the leaves of all the plants below its canopy as it settles into the thin lines caused by the veins of leaves. It is making me miserable with itchy nose and eyes, but it does not alter my love affair with them. I’ve never seen such heavy pollination from these grand trees as is going on this year. I pick up a lawn chair to sit in the warm sun and a yellow cloud rises from it!

Mature Maples can grow to 100 feet tall with a canopy spread to 50 feet. Their protecting branches are umbrellas in a spring rain and shade shelter on a hot summer day. I have measured leaves 12″ across. They are the largest North American maple tree.

Everyone loves Big Leaf Maples. The sapsucker is back for another year of nesting in the ones on the driveway near the house. All our resident woodpeckers dine on Maples regularly. Squirrels make them their homes and use them as their highway system. Covered with thick mosses of various colors and species, there are micro worlds on each tree, bugs living busy lives who never leave the tree. These mossy worlds are the 24 hour diners that attract all manner of birds and critters.

People too can dine on these big Maples. The blossoms of Big Leaf Maple are edible, you can add them to spring salads, and those whirly seed pods, called samaras, can be eaten, usually with the ‘wings’ removed and often cooked. Though dried they can provide winter nutrition, they are better and less bitter when greener. Native people would peel young maple shoots in the spring and eat the tender flesh.

Though the sugar content is low, you can make syrup from Big Leaf Maples. The US Forest Service has a 1972 brochure on how to do this. https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/rn181.pdf

fall color

Coastal tribes used Big Leaf Maple wood to make many functional items from boxes to dishes and pipes and paddles. The inner bark can be made into baskets and rope.  Maple wood is used commercially for furniture, interior trim wood, and musical instruments. Sadly, here locally, poachers have cut giant Maples off private land to sell for the prized wood.

Big Leaf Maples  die slowly, occasionally letting go of an old rotting branch. The giant limbs fall to the ground in wind storms or when their weight is too much for the tree to bear, where they continue to be a home and a food supply for many critters.

In the fall, if the weather is right, the huge leaves of this gentle giant of a tree turn bright yellow (if a wet fall, they turn more brown before falling) and carpet the ground, eventually rotting into the soil around its base, providing nutrients for the baby Maples that will grow from the those whirly, rotating seed pods as they too make their autumn descent.

These giant yellow trees are a beautiful contrast to the evergreen trees who are their neighbors throughout their coastal homelands.

Other tree posts:

Oak Lady of San Juan Island

For the Love of Trees

Jody and the Cottonwoods

Flutter Tree

 

The Background of Life

"classic" NW - ferns & moss growing on Big Leaf Maple

A “classic” – ferns & moss growing on Big Leaf Maple.  A background scene in NW woods.

 

We all have a background to our lives, that which is not the focus, not the front-and-center, but as in a photo, the setting which makes up the background.  It is like the backdrop on our particular stage of life.  Because it’s so familiar, sometimes what’s in the background becomes unnoticed until it is disrupted and catches our attention, then, briefly, it might move to the foreground.

For those living in a residential or urban environment, the background of life includes perhaps the ‘hum’ of certain noises that are constant, as well as various buildings, empty lots, the neighbors second car that seems to always be parked in the street and the ubiquitous Rhododendron, unnoticed until it bursts into colorful spring bloom. Ever notice that if you leave something in the yard for an extended period, you just don’t ‘see’ it after a while?  Even the neighbors purple garage door becomes mundane after a few months!

We pass these background ‘props’ every day en route to our activities and daily dramas.  If asked, sometimes people aren’t able to identify these ordinary props in their life. (Remember the older Newlyweds game show, they’d ask one of the spouses to describe something in the couples every day life, like the color of a room, and the person wouldn’t be able do it.) Someone unfamiliar to your neighborhood might notice something you barely take notice of any more.  In our homes  it is much the same, the hum of the refrigerator, the knickknack on the corner table you couldn’t describe if asked.

As I sort, delete, and organize photos on my computer today I’m drawn to the photos I’ve taken in the woods.  I have folders for ‘wildflowers’, ‘birds’, ‘butterflies’, ‘garden flowers’, ‘Mt. Rainer’, etc.  but the photos of daily life in the NW woods, the flora that’s here whether flowers, critters or butterflies show up or not, are really just as remarkable as these “showier” facets of Nature. These are of the ‘common’ plants most people in the Coastal region of the Pacific Northwest have in the backdrop of their lives if they live in or near woods.  Some of these are seasonal, most are not. They are the plants that make the Evergreen State green.

My deep appreciation for what makes up the background of life here is obvious by all the photos I’ve taken of the trees and plants I see every day. I never lose my awe of  giant Douglas Firs and Big Leaf Maples, of the lacy needles of Hemlock, or the brown fibrous bark of Cedar.  The ferns, evergreen bushes, and tiny plants that make up the understory of the woods seem the stuff of fairylands to me.

To someone who does not live here, who might be walking in the PNW woods for the first time, or who only gets to do so occasionally, these stalwarts of the woods are anything but ordinary.  It’s nice to see with fresh eyes these remarkable plants that are the backdrop to life on the Northwest stage.

I selected some of my favorite photos taken over the past 7 years to share. Hope you enjoy this walk in the woods. No woodland wild flowers (though most of the plants shown have blossoms), no colorful berries, no birds or critters, no butterflies, no exotics, just native green stuff….plants, trees, and a few fungi (because in a NW woods, fungi are abundant!).

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(Click on fern photo to start slide show of photo gallery below, or roll cursor over bottom of each photo to read captions. Not all photos are captioned. Most photos are taken in the woods where we live, a few from nearby walks.)

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Jody and the Cottonwoods

I share with you a guest posting by Jody Berry, owner, formulator, heart, and soul of Wild Carrot Herbals, my favorite body care products company.  It became my favorite when I discovered Vanilla Bean Skin Cream, a body cream so luscious you have to resist eating it, in fact it comes with a warning not to!  I have used other products made by Wild Carrot Herbals that have been very beneficial, including a Borage cream that successfully treated a terrible rash I had after surgery.  Jody is a Naturalist, an Herbalist, a mom and a delightful writer whose deep love of Nature resonates with my own.  With her permission, I share with you the latest posting from her blog, Mountain Mama Musings.  Last summer Jody moved her family and company from the west side of Oregon to Enterprise and has been sharing her child-like wonder at discovering Nature’s gifts on the ‘east side’.  Oh yea, she is also married to a Mike!

Enjoy Nature’s enchantment on a special day for Jody and her daughter.

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Alpine Cottonwood Bud Harvest

By Jody Berry

This is the first plant that I have wildcrafted since we made the move over to the other side of the state.  Cottonwood bud harvesting in my Willamette Valley homeland had always been done in the massive groves along the Clackamas, Willamette and Columbia rivers.  I am so happy that cottonwood is in higher elevations too.

The first big difference is that I am doing this in April – not in February.  The boundaries created by 4 seasons are growing on me.  Frozen ground and dormant buds create a true time of dormancy for this plant girl.  I feel more rested than ever this winter and not in the “I have to do it all right now” adrenal stress state that I often reside in.  Cave time is good.  Now to retrain my eyes and my psyche around this new plant kingdom calendar.

The second big difference is the bud itself.  They are stronger smelling and much juicier.  The resin is scarlet red and not so much the amber hue that I am accustomed to.  The sticky residue left on my hands from the harvest is not nearly as manageable.  Basically I am a mess – it is all over my clothes and hands and I am not sure how I am going to drive home without permanently destroying the steering wheel of my car!  It is so worth it though, I wear the medicine of this plant with joy.

I have gone out to harvest for several days now.  The first day I harvested while a bald eagle watched me closely.  Another day was a solo journey.  Yesterday was my favorite day so far.  With my 5 year old daughter and 1 year old Border Collie, we spent an entire day adventuring and seeing what we could find.  The weather was a glorious spring day.  There were morning showers that turned to brilliant sunshine and everything was glistening and green and bright.  Golden buttercups greeted us in the fields as we walked through the Ponderosa Pines to the water.  Cottonwoods love water as much as I do.  We marveled at how well they helped to hold the river banks.  We sang songs to the baby cottonwood trees and their bright orange branches and buds.  Finally we found a grove of Grandmother trees and all of the branches from a winter of wind storms that were at their feet.  Many of the buds had already been picked.  Do deer eat cottonwood bud?  Is there another plant forager in the county that I need to meet?  Ginger played in the water and threw pebbles for the little dog.  She attempted to build a bridge across a little tributary with beaver chewed sticks and big rocks.  I picked buds from fallen branches.  The river was so loud that we couldn’t hear each other and so there was no point to try and talk.  We just listened to what the river had to say and took in the light and the sunshine and the glorious scent of cottonwoods and Ponderosa pines.

It is moments like this that I feel my heart may burst with happiness.  The simple task of harvesting, of asking permission, and giving thanks to these plants that offer us great gifts with such openness – is humbling indeed.  I feel like the luckiest woman alive that this is my work and that in a small way we are able to share this plant joy with others.  Bearing witness to my child grow wiser to the plants and animals around her and her comfort level grow in this new wild place makes me feel with great certainty that I am exactly where I am supposed to be on this wheel of life.  Thank you cottonwood!

You can read about how Jody prepares and uses the Cottonwood buds at another one of her posts: Plant Speak: Cottonwood Bud

Wild Carrot Herbals are found in many stores, including the Port Townsend Food Coop, Whole Foods, PCC, and other stores that carry healthy body care products.

Berry Bonanza

Red Elder Berries
(the heavily laden bushes are now berry-less!)

There is an all-you-can-eat berry feast going on outside our house, and no doubt all over the northwest. The cloudy cool summer has not affected the berry harvest, and harvesting is exactly what is happening in treetops and bushes all around our house.  The treat for us is the variety of feasters who show up.

Early in the summer I love looking out and seeing a rotund red-breasted American Robin with a big juicy yellow Salmon Berry in its beak.  But it is when the Red Elderberries begin to ripen that the action really begins. Plump Band-tailed Pigeons are heard before they are seen, their flappy wing sounds and owl-like cooing tell us they have arrived.  Years of over-hunting, almost to extinction, have left these beautiful gray birds shy, but they are persistent and if scared off by our presence, they return, weighting down branches as they pluck the small red berries.

Elderberries also attract the most colorful of our northwest birds, the Western Tanager.  Flashy yellow-black bodies with orangey-red heads move fast through the bushes, eating here and there, not sticking around and chowing down like the Band-tails.

Cascara Berries
Just beginning to ripen, the feast has just begun!

The party really gets going with the ripening of Cascara berries. These tiny purple-black berries ripen a few at a time, each berry cluster having reddish and green berries along with ripened ones.  I’ve seen Evening Grosbeaks eat green berries, they are usually the first to head for the treetops of the largest Cascaras. But as more berries ripen, the diversity of diners increases. Finally, considered one of the most beautiful of American passerines, the Cedar Waxwings arrive.  Their tanish gray bodies, soft yellow breasts, characteristic yellow-tipped tail and scarlet tipped wing feathers are just part of their unique characteristics.  It is a mystery to me why they are so beautiful, they have the same masked look as a Raccoon, and the feather head-dress of a Stellar Jay, both these characteristics should give them a more roguish look, like a masked robber with a slicked-back do.  But somehow they pull it off as stunning beauty.

I’ve done a bit of reading about Cedar Waxwings, having had a remarkable ‘nature experience’ years ago involving their eating habits.  While walking on a nearby logging road I came upon a small (by conifer tree standards) cedar tree, 20 to 25 feet tall.  It was completely covered with Cedar Waxwings, there was barely room for them all, resulting in some jostling for position.  I stood mesmerized.  Though I could barely see the tree branches through the mass of bird bodies, I did notice it had bumper crop of small green cones, the ‘berries’ of the cedar tree.  Returning the next day, thinking there might be some birds still around, I saw nary a bird and a tree completely void of cones (binoculars helped confirm this).

Thus the cedar part of their name.  These are the only birds who can exist almost solely on berries.  This is to their advantage in some unusual ways, such as, a Cowbird egg laid in a Waxwing nest is not likely to survive once hatched because, unlike the Waxwing chicks, it cannot thrive on the predominately berry diet. Waxwings do feed their young some bugs, but not enough for a Cowbird to survive.  An endearing behavior of Waxwings is the passing of flower petals and small twigs back and forth during courtship, as well as ‘snuggling’.  What’s not to love?  A handsome, roguish looking bird who brings gifts when courting, loves berries, and likes to party (they are often seen in large flocks, though I have never again seen a flock as large as I did that magical day on the logging road.)

This year we seem to have a family of three Cedar Waxwings flitting from tree to tree, they have been here for days, though I think there might be more.  They are birds on the move in the treetops, elusive to my photography equipment and skills. Looking at a photograph of one, I attempted this drawing of a Cedar Waxwing, but neither photographs nor drawings seem to portray accurately their loveliness. (Even Sibley’s Waxwings look fat and unfriendly, not the sleek beauties I see in the treetops).

Waxwings are not the only feasters in the Cascaras.  I watched a territorial Robin try, unsuccessfully, to bully the Waxwings out of one tree.  The Pigeons, having finished off all the Elderberries, will now chow down on Cascara.  There are other birds, not yet identified, flitting in and out.  Fortunately a few Cascara trees just outside our front window have lower branches so we will be watching and identifying these avian berry connoisseurs the remainder of the summer, the staggered ripening of Cascara berries makes them an available food source for the entire month of August.

It is also a bumper crop year for Red Huckleberries, and I was wondering, as I picked berries from the heavily laden bushes to give my chickens, who think they are the crème de la crème of treats, why I don’t see wild birds eating these little tart berries.  Then yesterday I saw out the window a Stellar Jay doing contortions while plucking the red juicy berries.   I was delighted to see a Jay back amongst our feathered friends, (they tend to disappear and be elusive during breeding season) and happy to know they enjoy huckleberries!

Red Huckleberries

To see a photo and read more about Cedar Waxwings: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. You can look up the other birds I mention on the same web site and hear the calls of each one, very helpful when trying to identify birds high in the treetops!

(Footnote:  Our raspberries are also abundant this year. Interestingly, wild birds don’t seem to care for the sweet domestic berries, given the surrounding wild harvest. However, squirrels are ravaging the canes, knocking berries on the ground, and eating them right in front of us! Grrrrrr!)

The Oak Lady of San Juan Island

Mature Garry Oak trees, once abundant on San Juan Island, became rare, but now, thanks to restoration efforts, will thrive for future generations.

From the San Juan Island National Historic Park website:

“…native peoples collected foodstuffs such as acorns, camas roots, and bracken ferns…and burned the forests regularly to create habitat for game animals, promote the growth of weaving materials and food such as camas, and maintain an open prairie…lack of fire in recent years spurred an increase of Douglas fir trees, which have deprived the oak trees of sunlight, water, and nutrients.”

Through prescribed burns, the park has initiated a program to bring back the native Garry Oaks, an important tree in the unique-to-western Washington prairie ecosystem of the island.

Elsewhere on the island, on a mountain hillside, lives a remarkable woman equally dedicated to re-establishing native Garry Oak forests on the island.  She has supervised the demise of hundreds of Douglas Firs and personally planted hundreds of oak seedlings.  As she walks the land she shares with her partner, she points out each young plant, tenderly planted, caged and cared for.  She is distressed when she can’t find one, or finds it has died.  With determination she voraciously pulls out fir seedlings, an ‘invasive species’ in the island prairie habitat.  The oaks are her ‘babies’, though the slow-growing trees will barely be out of childhood and into their adolescent years in her lifetime.

In her own words, excerpted from an article she wrote in 2009 and published by the Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery Team in Vancouver, Canada, she describes the property:

“….[it] is comprised of 20 acres..…a south-facing slope divided by micro-habitat types into thirds…ranging in elevation from approx. 600 – 400 feet. The top third is open grass meadow with a few [mature] Garry Oaks and minimal rock outcroppings; the middle third is mainly rock outcroppings, shrubs of Snowberry and Nootka Rose, wildflowers, Arbutus, Garry Oaks and ancient Douglas-firs; and the bottom portion is primarily a dense Douglas-fir forest with trees ranging in age from 300 to 20 years old. Our restoration project is concentrated in the top two sections of the property.”

Her article continues to describe the flora of the land, project objectives and challenges, the different methods used to remove the firs, and how she encouraged other native plants to become established.  It is not a paper written by an arborist, or biologist, or nurseryman, it is written by a person in love with a piece of land she is honored to steward, a love that grows from a passion for Nature and Place.  It is a privilege to know this special Lady of the Oaks.

Mike, the tree-planter, helping the Oak Lady plant her oak babies

Cousins by birth, friends by Nature!

Shaun, a paternal cousin and close friend, is the closest I have to a biological ‘sister’.  Though we did not grow up together, my family having moved east when I was 5, she 3, the sister title comes through a familial friendship which grew when we “met” after I moved back to the NW in my 20s. When I was living in Oregon we had an annual tradition of  “double dating” to the Joffrey Ballet when it was in Seattle. Once I moved to the Peninsula there were long phone conversations over the woes of relationships, jobs, life, once we had a ‘crush’ on the same guy; another guy, who was my dance partner, fell head over heels for Shaun.  She unequivocally filled the previously empty sister-role in my life.  She was the last-minute-brides-maid at our wedding in CA, and played my favorite waltz at our wedding party in WA a week later.  I have contra danced to her fiddling in Seattle, Port Townsend, and at Deception Pass, where I played along on my autoharp and called out the dances.  She provided me retreat and respite when, after 2 years of serve illness, I took my first car trip alone and headed to her island home, and when plans for my 60th birthday trip fell through due to new health challenges, she again was the place I turned for Mike and I to have a November get away.

Shaun, (who has 3 fabulous ‘real’ sisters) as any sister might be, is different than me in myriad ways.  We rarely see one another due to full lives and differing lifestyles.  There are too many ferries between us and our paths rarely cross.  But our strongest bond, besides the shared genes, is a mutual passionate love of Nature…especially Nature in its native garb here in Washington.  She is the only person I have ever talked with for an hour, on the phone, about noxious weeds, looking up pictures on the internet and sharing woes and knowledge of different plants we battle in our differing habitats.  In the spring we are both out photographing the tiny new blooms showing up in our respective environments, sharing the photos and the joy of seeing them, as if for the first time.  We speak of Spring Beauty and Star Flowers.  She sends me pictures of Mt Baker from her island home; I send her pictures of the Olympics and my trips to Mt Rainier.  We are Washington women!

Why do I write of this Nature loving, fly fishing artist, photographer, musician and world traveler on my blog?  Because she, my ‘little sister’ and friend, turns 60 this week, a life event she will commemorate with her partner Harold and their friends at various social events.  I sent her a modest gift for quiet moments back in her island home after the festivities, but  I write, and writing of her life is my gift, my tribute to her.

Besides restoring the Garry Oaks to Cady Mountain on San Juan Island, Shaun also has been involved in the Western Bluebird Reintroduction Project to bring back bluebirds to the island.  She has hosted a breeding pair for several years.  Her support of the project has been bittersweet, with successes and disappointments.  But with Shaun’s persistence, I belief there will be a time, perhaps by the end of this new decade of her life, that she will look out her window to see and hear bluebirds singing in her oaks!

Shooting Stars flourish in the prairie atop Cady Mountain

Until then a newly awakened prairie of shooting stars, camas, chocolate lilies, and other wild flowers will greet people who walk the proposed nature trail to the Cady Mountain Preserve owned by the San Juan County Land Bank.  Those flowers, the growing oaks, the wildlife that enjoys the newly formed habitat will all have a home far into the future, as the land that Shaun and Harold now steward eventually combines with the Land Bank’s  Preserve.  Thanks to Shaun’s vision and hard work, future generations will see what island prairie hillsides looked like in the past when Shaun’s maternal ancestors were among the earliest white settlers and the oaks were big and plentiful.

Happy Birthday Shaun, you are a mere 60 and you have already created a legacy, made a difference, and changed the world where you live.

For The Love of Trees

January 1872, J. Sterling Morton used his status as a prominent, successful journalist and editor, to propose there be a holiday in Nebraska, where he lived, to plant trees on April 10th of that year.  Morton was a passionate and knowledgeable arborist. That was the first Arbor Day.  Prizes were given to counties and towns for planting the most trees and it was estimated over one million trees were planted in Nebraska that day. Later Arbor Day became an official Nebraska holiday and moved to Morton’s birthday. Eventually other states adopted Arbor Day and the day settled upon for most places was the last Friday in April, though often states set dates more ideal for planting trees in their region.

Here in Washington, the Washington State Legislature designated Washington’s Arbor Day as the second Wednesday in April, which this year was April 11th, 140 years and one day from the first Arbor Day.

Arbor Day, and the Arbor Day Foundation (founded in 1972 on the centennial of Arbor Day), is designed to encourage people to plant and care for trees.  In recent years Earth Day, April 22, which began in 1970, often overshadows Arbor Day, with a larger, global and multifaceted agenda. Yet for obvious reasons, the two go hand in hand. Without trees, not much else on earth will survive.

I am a tree lover. In fact I have a tree lover.  It is a stately beauty (to my eyes) I saw from a distance about five years ago, a fir that seemed to stand out from its neighboring fir buddies due to a bluish/grey tint to its bark.  It is a secret affair. We hug, well I hug, and chat a bit with it when I am in its vicinity.  It has been there for me through many difficult times and I comfort it when winter storms bring down its huge branches. Although my husband knows about this affair, they have never met.

He (my husband Mike) is also a tree lover. His particular fondness is for Big Leaf Maples. He is always proclaiming one Maple or another to be the LARGEST Big Leaf Maple he has ever seen.  During his years as a tree-planter Mike estimates he planted half a million trees, all conifers, mostly first.  When we are driving around on the Olympic Peninsula, or traveling in some other area of the state where he planted, he will point out a section where ‘his’ 20 or 30 year old seedling-children have grown to be fine young strapping trees.  He continues to plant seedlings here and there in the woods where trees have fallen or we have had to take down a tree or two.

We did not plant any trees this Arbor Day, in fact a few weekends ago Mike fell a small Big Leaf Maple that grew back from the stump of a tree he took down several years ago.  It is a playful game between him and the maples, they never die, they just start over and we enjoy them until they become ‘problematic’ in their over abundance of shade, or their limbs threaten to fall on the house.  We live among hundreds of trees and we kindly have to explain to some that we too need a bit of space to thrive.  It is with reverence we remove a tree, and it is with gratitude we appreciate the warmth it provides us in our home. A large fir, fallen by a winter storm, became the beams of our meditation building.  A true gift of life.

I can go on and on about trees, about particular trees, like the unusually large and beautifully colorful Red Osier Dogwood out my window, or the wonderful pungent scent of fresh-cut Alder, or the little Grand Fir on the trail we have walked around and watched grow for decades, or about my cousin Shaun’s Oak Tree Restoration project on San Juan Island.  Like many residents on the ‘wet side’ of the Evergreen State, trees are omnipresent in my life.

If Arbor Day here in Washington passed you by, remember any day is a good day to plant a tree, care for a tree, hug a tree.  At the rate the world’s largest forests are being deforested, Morton’s idea to set aside a day to encourage the planting of trees has never been more relevant. If you join the National Arbor Foundation they will send you free seedlings to plant. If you are looking for some native trees to plant, we may have a few seedlings to share!

With enough moisture, Big Leaf Maple trees host moss, which in turn hosts young ferns, all under the protection of the huge tree branches with its umbrella canopy.

A wonderful book to read about one man’s passion for trees is My Life My Trees, written by Richard St. Barbe Baker, the “Tree Man”. The autobiography of this remarkable man, who inspired the founding of the Civil Conservation Corp, as well as organizations around the world for reforestation, is the story of a man who impacted the world one tree at a time, and by writing 30 books!

Another book I enjoyed reading is The Attentive Heart, Conversations with Trees by Stephanie Kaza. The author interweaves her personal biography and relationships with trees, giving voice to, and interesting information about, the trees.

Flutter Tree

A Red-breasted Nuthatch darts in for a single seed.
Red Osiers are the oaks of western woods, turning
shades of red in stages, resulting in
multi-colored fall foliage

While writing the post below there has been a flutter of activity outside the window just above my desk.  There is more to write, another time, of this remarkable tree, a giant Osier Dogwood I call the Grand Central Station of our yard, but today I call it the Flutter Tree.  A bird feeder between the window and the tree attracts (obviously!) birds and depending upon the time of day, those who show for the feeding frenzy changes.  Earlier, there were the Stellar Jays hanging off the feeder, dumping much seed on the ground, and discouraging smaller birds to venture near.  Now there is constant movement as Red Breasted Nuthatches, Juncos, and Black-capped and Chestnut-sided Chickadees dart in and out, grabbing a single seed and sitting in the Osier Dogwood to crack and eat their claim.  The feeding frenzy has slowed as the sky darkens, but deep in the web of the trees branches I still see a few tiny birds sit.  They do not spend the night there, but it is the avian community center of day time life!  Last winter we did not keep a feeder so close to the house due to the horrible rat problem we had the previous year, yet life in The Tree was still busy.