In the Presence of Trees, Part 5

Guardians of Time

Eleven trees live in our garden; 13 if I count the dwarf trees that are no taller than four feet high. Ours is not a large plot of land – just a standard neighborhood lot with a single family house of about 1,100 square feet – but it is thoroughly landscaped. No lawn except for a small, oval-shaped patch of grass immediately outside the living room window. The rest of the property consists of a variety of garden beds interspersed with paths. We have a small fish pond that the neighborhood wildlife visits on occasion. The pond is surrounded by a few container plantings, a small terrace, and a stone bench. We love this small plot of land and have tended it since 1983. We are as much a component of this land as it is of us. And it feels old, this place. Old, with a few venerable trees that we have tended and supported through drought, freeze, flooding rains, and wind storms. These trees have supported us in times of neglect during family tragedies. A few were here before we arrived; I hope they remain long after we are gone.

But our trees, as loved and important as they are to us, do not compare to some of the historic trees we saw recently while visiting the Washington coast. Big Cedar Tree, just off Highway 101 between Forks and Kalaloch, is such a tree. Although it was damaged in a storm in 2014, its size is remarkably impressive. The tree is estimated to be around 1,000 years old. As we walked around the tree, looking up into the canopy of hemlock and huckleberry that the Cedar supports, we felt a sense of awe similar to that which we experienced in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. This Cedar is a matriarch to more life than we will ever know. And, she is beautiful.

My spouse, in silent reverence.
The Cedar’s exquisite roots. Imagine being so grounded, so permanent.
The Cedar gives life to more than we understand.

Another tree that is equally impressive, though in a different way, is the Kalaloch Tree of Life, sometimes called the Hanging Tree. This Sitka spruce has a tenuous grip on the cliff that once supported it. Not much is left of the cliff, but the tree holds tight.

My spouse and I spent some time under the tree, observing its intricate root system. Cool and sweet-smelling in the cave.

One of the first vacations my spouse and I took many years ago was to La Push, on the Washington coast. We were avid hikers then (10-15 miles/hike) and took hikes that brought us up and over beachheads when the tide would come in. One time in particular, we were trying to cross a deep, fast moving stream during high-tide by walking across an enormous, downed log. My spouse was almost across, and I was close behind, when a wave knocked me almost off the log and into the stream. My spouse caught me by the top of my head and held on as we scrambled to the shore. We made it, both very wet and shaking, as the huge log shifted a bit. When we visited La Push recently, we saw a log about the same size as the one we remembered from years ago. My spouse looked at the log and said, “I think this is the log that tried to take you out to sea!”

The log we both remember may have grown in size with time! Memory will do that, you know.

I wish you good hiking, clear skies, and firm stand on all that supports you!

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