“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
-William Arthur Ward
This winter has been a very wet one here on the Redwood coast. We haven't seen this much rain in quite a few years. One day we got 9" in less than 24 hours. The ground is very saturated, and there have been several small mud slides and trees down all over the county. Our creek is full and flowing rapidly to the ocean! Everything is green and beautiful, the spring bulbs are blooming, and we haven't had any major power outages (none that lasted more than a day, thank goodness!) For all of this I am very grateful. I realize how lucky we are to be warm and dry on a stormy day, and how fortunate it is to sleep in a nice warm bed at night.
One of the reasons we have always loved our home is because of the surrounding forest and the giant redwood and oak trees all around us. They provide a lovely view and make our little spot in the world truly unique. We live outside of town on a small parcel of land. Sometimes it feels like we live way out in the countryside. Actually, we're only one mile from town and the closest grocery store. We believe we found the best of both worlds when we purchased this home.
A few days ago we were awakened at 3:30 in the morning by a crashing sound. It was raining heavily and we thought a large tree branch had fallen somewhere. I wasn't terribly worried when my husband got up to investigate because I've been around when trees have fallen, and believe me you notice it!! The ground shakes and the sound is tremendous. It feels like a small earthquake. We were both completely taken by surprise by what turned out to be the cause of the noise: one of our favorite oak trees had crashed to the ground.
This was the view out back last fall:
Here's how it looks today:
Our beloved "Grandmother" oak tree went down, and destroyed our gazebo and two of our gorgeous colorful Japanese Maples. As you can see, the gazebo has been reduced to a pile of rubble. The maples were snapped in two like little twigs. The fence on that side of the property was demolished.
The force of the trees' roots coming up from the ground destroyed our brick patio and tore down retaining walls surrounding it. Most of the tree fell diagonally across the yard, and cracked into several pieces along her trunk. She was a very tall tree, close to 6 stories tall! Long branches and the top of the tree extend over and beyond the ruble of the gazebo, and now hang suspended above the creek bed.
Our poor tree! We loved her very much, and we were all in shock for a few days after she fell. You might think I'm nutty, but I shed many tears over the loss of this tree!
The old oak had sheltered us from the elements. She had given us shade during the hot summers, and kept the rain off us during the winter. She provided privacy and a sense of security. We played under her branches and swung on the rope swing that hung from one of her strongest branches.
In light of the other, extremely devastating natural disasters that have occured on this planet lately, it might seem unreasonable or self-centered for us express any grief at all over the loss of this one tree, with no major damage to our home, and no injuries to anyone . We know others have been hit much harder by fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and mudslides. We only lost a tree, and we were very lucky. Still, it's hard to explain - we felt the old oak tree had been part of our family! Our friends and family, who spent many lazy afternoons with us playing and swinging under her, share our feelings of loss, because they too recognize her contribution to the special and unique character of this place. We had the best egg hunts, and swinging contests, and parties, and also quiet, peaceful times in the yard and on our deck under the branches of that old oak, hidden away from the rest of the world.
Although it was never a threat because she leaned away from the house, we know we are very fortunate that the tree fell the direction she did, and not into our home. We are fortunate that it fell late at night, and not while we were outside playing in the yard near her! I'm grateful it happened quickly, and that we have insurance, and that we can replace structures that were lost. I'm grateful for the time we did have with that majestic old oak tree standing tall in our yard. I'm thankful that my childhood fantasy of living in a home with a tree swing in the back yard was finally realized when we bought this house in the redwoods. I'm thankful for the forces of nature, the cycle of life, and the grace and beauty of the trees that are still alive and strong, on our property, around our home, and here on the redwood coast.
The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a
green thing that stands in the way. Some see Nature all ridicule and
deformity, and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the eyes of the
man of imagination, Nature is Imagination itself.
- William Blake, 1799, The Letters
Until next time,