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August 27th, 2009

When Tony and I bought this house back in 1997, the major reason we did so was the forest in the back yard.  The house abuts Fauntleroy Park which is an urban forest in the middle of Seattle.  However, it looks and feels like the home sits in a secluded woodland with no sign or hint that they city is a few blocks away.  Dominating the back yard was a huge Hemlock tree that towered into the sky.  The previous owners of the house never once trimmed the tree, and when we bought the house the limbs were literally hanging over the small yard and smacking the balcony/patio and it looked like this.
Shortly after that we had a professional logger come in and trim up the lower branches, and boy did it ever open up the forest view and made the yard even more spectacular.  We were able to come across a "Ski Area Boundary" sign from Whistler and nailed it to the tree -- which was ironically right on the property line and so the sign was more than appropriate.
That tree has stood there for Lord knows how long, watching seasons come and go, and has been a silent sentinel in the forest, shading the back yard and towering above the house.   Being a Hemlock it produced millions of tiny pine cones each year too, that each fall would rain down on the deck and yard and be a pain to rake up, but I didn't really mind.

Well this year, it started raining yellow needles in the spring -- and it just didn't stop.  When I got back from Sturgis a couple of weeks ago, I looked up and what few needles were left were turning yellow and my neighbors Madelon and Mildred two doors up said that from their balcony the tree looked quite dead. I went up for a look and unfortunately had to agree.
 
I called the City Parks Arborist to come look at it, and a few days later they came out and indicated that the tree had died and it needed to be taken out.  Since it's right on the line, the city decided to take the tree down at their cost and let it fall in the park.  The next day the logging crew came out, and I joined Madelon and Mildred on their patio to watch them climb up and take the giant down.  They first climbed up and de-limbed most of the lower portion, before sawing off the crown and letting it crash down into the park.  Then they worked down the trunk, taking out 10 foot sections and letting them fall with a thud we could feel on the patio two houses up.  After standing for a century -- watching seasons come and go and the city grow up around it, it was gone in less than a half hour.
It was a very sad morning -- I hated to see that ancient giant go.  Diego, my young neighbor and I tried to count the rings on a slice the loggers left for us and we got up to 90 before we had to give up because the rings were too small -- but I bet it was over 110 years old.  One of my lobbying friends and colleagues who often playfully razzes and chides me for being a bit on the left side of the political spectrum posted on my Facebook page when I said that I was sad the loggers were taking out the tree.  He asked "Did you hug and kiss it goodbye.  It probably has feelings like the dead fish being flung at the Pike Place Market."     He missed the point though, and the point of my comment.  The tree itself wasn't sad -- it was me -- losing that tree left a gaping hole in my forest, which like a snaggle toothed hag, looks funny.  I'd just as soon take the wood and burn it in the fireplace if I had a wood burning one, it would last 10 years at least -- or convert the Hummer to wood burning so as to contribute further to global warming to prevent a repeat of last winter.  No, I doubt the tree was sad, but I was, and I still am.  And in a way it's almost a metaphor for my life this past year.  Like that tree, a part of me died and needs to be taken out so new life can flourish.  And like that tree, it will take some time to get used to it, but eventually the gap in the forest will fill in.  And I can enjoy the memories and the remnants that are left.  Plus the loggers left my sign on the stump! 

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