What I’m leaving behind: Tall Trees

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This morning I woke up at 5:00 to the sound of dog tags rattling next to me. I knew it wasn’t Buddy. He is always in his bed like a good little boy should be. Belle and Buster were both on the bed, Buster lying peacefully like a 30 pound rock at my feet, and Belle scratching herself relentlessly right next to my ear. This is her way of getting us up in the morning. I ignored her for a few minutes, well, maybe an hour, then I decided she wasn’t going to stop, so I got up. We went out into the back yard in the semi-darkness and as my three canine companions wandered around their familiar territory, I sat on the concrete step, listening, seeing and smelling the freshness of the day.

What I heard was the lively sound of one little bird serenading the whole neighborhood with her happy little song. She was the queen of the morning sitting on top of a hundred foot spruce tree in my neighbor’s yard. These trees were obviously planted as a natural fence between properties, but this little bird knew no boundaries. She was confidently belting out her tunes as if she expected everyone to stop what they were doing and listen only to her. I stopped, and listened, and marveled at her clarity and enthusiasm.

I took a couple of deep breaths and smelled the freshly cut grass, mixed with the scents of ocean air and tree sap, and felt a slightly cool breeze on my skin. I looked up at those trees that must have grown twenty feet since we’ve been here and realized that I will miss them. They have provided a backdrop to our lives these past seven years, always there, standing, watching, sifting the air. When the Pacific Northwest is pounded by winter storms, these trees swing and sway like they’re in a group exercise class. If you listen closely, you can hear them singing their soft nature song as the wind whips through their branches. None of them has ever cracked or broken. They are strong and safe. And even though they block the morning sun, and drop their cones all over the ground and their needles into our hot tub, I will miss them.

*****

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Our house is surrounded on three sides by tall trees. A majestic stand of hundred year old redwoods on the north side reminds us that this once was a redwood forest with a raging river flowing through it. It is a magical place in our yard that I had big plans for. I could see fairies flitting about in my child’s mind. I imagined azaleas and fuchsias growing in the empty trunk of one tree, and ferns scattered all around the base. I thought I might put a little table and chair out there, but never did. So, it is still pristine and natural with no interference from human hands.

On the south side of our house, a military style line of cypress trees has given us the privacy we needed from our grumpy neighbor. There are usually a couple of cats hanging out in this mini forest, waiting for a baby bird to fall from its nest, or just waiting to pounce on a bug or another cat. The neighbor trims the lower branches every year in order to avoid sprouting new cypress trees, but still we can only see each other’s legs passing by now and then. These trees are also about a hundred feet tall and block the sun for most of the year. A mixed blessing I guess considering that we’d prefer the privacy over the sun.

And then there are the dozen or so spruce trees that I was communing with early this morning. Situated in a semi-circle at the perimeter of our back yard, they form a natural barrier between us and our other neighbors. Because there is also a man-made fence to protect them, our dogs love to go back to that area and taunt the neighbor’s two large Labradors. Our three little Shitzus run back and forth on our side, yapping away, while the two identical black Labs simply stand there staring down at these little balls of fury, looking baffled. It’s a dog thing that I will never understand. Sometimes I try to make them stop and learn some social skills, but it doesn’t seem to stick, so recently I have just let them have at it.

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The black dogs weren’t out this morning. I guess it was too early, so my three little guard dogs wandered around peacefully sniffing all the familiar blades of grass and peeing wherever they wanted to. As I got up to come back into the house, I knew a storm was coming. I can always feel it in my face and in my bones. It’s an achy, pounding pressure that is only relieved when the sky is finished dumping its contents on the ground below. This relentless moisture is the reason we have all these tall trees around here. They thrive in the dampness and don’t need much sun to survive. So, I looked up at the stillness in the upper branches, and listened to the continuing birdsong, and breathed in the fresh, salty Pacific air, and soaked in the ambiance of the morning. I said a silent goodbye to the trees and to the musician in their branches, and hoped I would remember to do this again before we leave.

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