My love for trees is a spiritual thing. Reflecting on this I recognize how easily I can trace this heartfelt connection back many years. I smile as I remember two Weeping Willows, a big Cotton Wood, and a treasured Maple, each of them held me in different ways at different times of my life. Now this beauty! I call it the “Thanksgiving Tree”! This 60′ Douglas Fir and I first met almost two years ago on one of the coldest days of that winter.
I remember at the time thinking how snowshoes would have been a good idea as my husband and I walked through thigh high deep snow. We navigated our way around contrasting clumps of red branched Rocky Mountain Maple, slowly moving through a thinned stand of tall Fir, Aspen, Birch and Tamarack. After months of searching we had come to this spot to look at a piece of property where we might build a home.
Standing in the cold snow, I began observing the lay of the land. While looking at marked stakes with numbers, I studied the plat map Bob, the realtor had given us noting a road that wasn’t yet built, and wondered “Where would it be located?” Looking up at the tallest of trees that surrounded me, I saw how their grandeur for many years must have sheltered this small piece of forest floor. More questions began to surface in my mind, “Which trees would survive, and which ones would be sacrificed for this new community? Did I want to be, could I be a part of this development where the very nature of the plants and animals, would be affected, quite likely through some of my actions and desires?” Being the first potential buyers to possibly break ground, it felt like a bigger responsibility was weighing on me.
After about an hour and a half my husband and the realtors had finished surveying the area of interest and walked off to the bordering road to talk. For me, even though the snow had found it’s way into my boots and my feet were cold, I felt drawn to stay. I remember this moment so clearly! There was a heightened awareness; from deep within I sensed another question, “Could this possibly be the ground where we might create our dream and help it come to life?” Behind me the branches of the Thanksgiving Tree, and the other towering firs that circled it swayed in the biting chill of that January day. In a quiet whisper in a winter wood I believe I heard, “Yes, here.” There seemed to be a mysterious natural thread connecting with my heart. Unsure of what may lie ahead I held onto this connection, trusting and softly opening to it. A few days later we made an offer, it was accepted!
In the weeks that followed, after purchase documents were signed and it became official, Gus, my sweet Schnauzer companion and I would come often to observe the light patterns and shadows dancing across the melting snow, across the footprint area where soon we would build our home. The winter days were becoming longer, and although there was thoughtful design purpose in these moments, I would find myself tuning in to the natural rhythm here. Quietly we would sit up top a small berm on the southern side of the property. It was the perfect spot to view things from, to imagine, to explore ideas, to just be. This became our special place. While Gus may have been more interested in looking for Squirrels or Whitetail Deer, my senses were expanding and experiencing a sacred presence. It was in the smell of the thawing loam beneath the snow, I would feel it on my face from the warming winter sun, and sometimes I could see it in the filtered light that glistened between the high branches. The trees waving and bowing, me listening with each breath. There was an unexplained knowing in my deepest place within, it was palpable.
During this earth grounding it sadly became clear to me that many trees would be scrubbed out to build the short road that would give us and a few others not yet here, access to our homes. Where our house would rest it appeared there was a significant concentration of tall firs, 18 to be exact. A true sense of grief came to me in realizing all of this. In these moments I would offer thanks for what these trees had given to the dirt beneath, for the nourishment the root systems had provided the small ground creatures and the offerings to the birds and critters who had nested within the shelter of their supportive arms. Moving forward I began to imagine how I might make this all congruent with what my heart was experiencing.
Some time later, while discussing details with the road engineer I became aware the Thanksgiving Tree was precariously close to the easement boundary and our property line. After further consideration by the developer and road excavation company we tied a ribbon around our beauty, securing it for continued life, giving space for it to keep growing and shading that which what lay in it’s shadow. If we hadn’t acted when we did the excavator crew likely would have found it easier to scrub it out along with all the others along the road way a few days later. It was then when I gave it the name, “Thanksgiving Tree”! Thankful for this personal conservation, and the giving of it’s living joy!
As our project started to take shape we enlisted the help of some young able-bodied and experienced Trail Crew friends to help us individually fell the footprint trees. It seemed a more gentler way of taking them down, one at a time, rather than with a big piece of excavation equipment ripping them out of the earth.
This allowed us to move forward with the idea of having the timber milled on site, so we could collect the lumber to later create beautiful and useful things for our home. It became my wish that each room could hold something special made from the trees that had stood, that had whispered, that had lived right here! A transformation of sorts, still providing in a new way for us to appreciate their inner beauty.
Fast forward through the build adventure. A big learning curve for this visually detailed brain! I learned more about patience and grace in those months than I could have ever expected. Much Kudos to the team that took our vision and helped us make it real! We have been making our house a home for a year now! We have made good on the wish to bring the trees inside, trimming the fireplace, creating simple furniture for the guest space, and hanging rustic shelves in a few spots too. The entry-way bench and coat hook area is my favorite! Oh! And in giving back we have planted 18 new trees on our little spot!
How much longer this special tree will shade our dwelling I do not know. What I do know is that I intend to be grateful for each sunset it stands tall through, offering it’s majestic silhouette for those paying attention to be awed by, all the while reminding me to listen for the gentle whispers that are present and guiding. My heart still holds the connection thread that spoke to me that cold January day. Now as this little spot in the wood grows, I see new threads reaching out and weaving a tapestry of friendship in a community beside the trees.
All photos by Shelley Bauer ©