Ten Years of Susie Trees

Ten years ago I stood in front of Witter Pool, so excited to be planting a tree in Susie’s name, a tree to honor my stillborn grandson Steven Michael Miller.
There were city officials, state officials, a biking club, a walking club, family, and tv cameras. We were bringing the importance of street trees to the public. It was a wonderful day even though I imagebotched the tv interview and it was barely mentioned on the news that night. We planted the Tupelo and off we all went.

No one thought about other trees except me. I was thinking about the tree that inspired me – the maple that would be planted in the Japanese Garden and the tree in Shadle Park for Susie’s friends’ stillborn, Grace Susie Bain. I thought about those trees and the plaque these trees earned for Susie in City Hall. I thought that would be my plantings for Susie.

This week, on the anniversary of that planting, I stood in Friendship Park beside Spokane’s 251st tree. (And there are three groves in the city, too.) It was a small group, imagethe city arborist, a curious citizen who wanted to see what this was all about, a member of the Ponderosa Society, a library friend, and a woman walking her dog. We finished the planting, added tree-grams, a bookmark, a tree identification tag to the branches and stone by the roots. Then we ate our cookies.

So much has changed in ten years. – a real dedication ceremony for the people who “own” the tree. There are no longer just three trees, there is a Susie Forest.

So what will happen in the next ten years? Can we more than double those 251 trees in Spokane? Can we go from almost 400 trees around the world to more than a thousand? Let’s make it happen!

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A Big Dedication

Holly’s dream park was dedicated in the fog this morning. It was another one of those days that make you wonder if people will look out their windows and decide to stay home. imageWould anyone come? They did!

Would the dedication of nine trees for nine different groups work? It did!

Holly and her family told the story of her plan and her work to get those trees planted. Then she introduced me to tell how the Susie Forest got involved.
After a photo shoot every group went to their tree and began hanging their tree-grams and in the case of the Cub Scouts, doing a little digging. There were pictures being taken and children running imagefrom tree to tree and people running into old friends. I got so into it all that I forgot some things like putting out the stones and passing out the tree books that I picked up at the library bookstore. I did manage to do it all even as people were leaving.

What a great experience this was for me. Especially since I met a little girl who may grow up to be another Susie.image

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Trees for Children

After the location for Holly’s heart was decided on, the planning for the occasion began. There are going to be ten trees and of course, one will be for Holly and one for Susie. But who should the other eight trees belong to?image

For several years I had been collecting names of children’s groups that maybe I should plant trees for and now I had a place for some of them. I got together with Holly’s family and told them my idea and how it would be a chance for Holly and me to talk to the children about having a dream and working hard to make it happen. They liked the idea and began a list of their own.

Soon Holly and I were on our speaking tour. imageWe imagepresented in front of Scout groups and church groups and classrooms. Each group was given a kit with tree-grams and bookmarks and told about their tree. Tomorrow they will come to Friendship Park and help finish up the planting of their trees.

Here are the groups that will have a tree: Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Holly’s Sunday school at Life Center Church, her fourth grade class at Hutton School, Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, the Guild School, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and Anna Ogden Hall/Union Gospel Mission.

I hope there will be lots of children there tomorrow to eat all the cookies I baked.

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Dreams Can Come True

This has been a long time coming – ten years for me and more than two years for Holly. And that’s a big chunk of a fourth grader’s life. Her dream and my dream were on parallel paths until I overheard a conversation. Her father was telling about Holly at the age of six planning a park with a heart shape of trees planted there. She had presented the plan to the mayor and to the Urban Forester. And there it stopped until I heard about it and barged into the conversation to say, “This is something perfect for the Susie Forest!”

And there it also stopped while we figured out where to plant these trees. Where was there room? Where could they be seen and appreciated? The grown ups thought it should be on a slope and we spent a lot of time looking for a bare slope in a park. We showed it to Holly and she said, “No, that’s weird.” She wanted it by a playground. So we started looking again.

And then Holly’s dream and mine came together because I wanted a big event to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Susie Forest. What a perfect event – planting ten trees in a heart shape next to the splash pad in Friendship Park.

So on Saturday at 10:00 our dreams come true together. The first seven trees went in on Monday and two will be planted on Saturday and the last on Tuesday the anniversary of the first planting. image

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Another Tree for Corbin Park

It’s 2:00 on the button and I climb out of my car. There is the new Bur Oak in Corbin Park already planted and no crew in sight. No cookies for them! I love to watch the trees go into the ground even if the dedication is only a few hours away. Disappointment. imageBut then I see another Susie tree right beyond it. It’s a Dawn Redwood, the replacement for the poor sick Ponderosa that was planted in 2005. That was the first tree in this park and the oak is the ninth. I love Corbin Park.

Later the family comes for the dedication. imageThey stand around the tree and tell their favorite remembrances of “GranSandi”. I smile as one little boy tells that she would tell him that it was alright if she gave him a cookie on a non-cookie day. They write tree-grams to hang and private messages on leaf-shaped bits of grocery bags to place by the roots. And then there are cookies and off the children go to a soccer game.

I love tree plantings and the wonderful people I meet and the wonderful stories I hear. But sometimes I’m too entranced by the stories to remember to take more pictures.

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Time to Get Back to Work

I guess I can’t keep using a limp as an excuse for not using my brain and my fingers because now I’m home from a wonderful trip to Europe and I brought home one souvenir- a cane. On the third day I found that I couldn’t read German as I passed a sign that clearly stated, “STUFE” and fell off the step it warned me to watch out for. I know “watch your step” in German very well now. I did something to my hip and am now back to normal after a lot of lazing around.

I kept up on all the tours and found that limping is very tiring. BUT, I did get two trees planted! Here are the stories:
To plant a tree in Luebeck, Germany, the parks department asked for 500 euros and several weeks. I was prepared to do that but my host family in the village of Beidendorf didn’t think that was a good idea and offered me a little walnut tree that they had grown from a nut from their mature walnut tree. Their neighbor’s daughter wanted a walnut tree and her family would like to have a Susie Forest tree. So I hobbled across the street with Ulrich and watched him plant the little tree and in the evening it was dedicated and hung with tree-grams. A tree in Germany! Yay!!image

Our group left Germany for a rented chateau in northern France. I had already contacted the owners about planting a tree there and got an ok. Because we were out every day touring and the owners were busy getting ready for a big shindig right after we left, it was hard to find time to get the tree. On one of the errand runs later in the week they stopped at a nursery and picked up their choice, a sweet cherry. I got to see it in its pot and was told where they thought they would plant it. That night, the last night there, I thought it had been planted and walked out in the fading light to see it, but I couldn’t find it. I left for home in the dark the next morning without seeing if and where it was planted. Later I found out from my fellow tourists that it was planted later that morning in a different location and I will see pictures soon. Ahh, there is a French tree!
Another yay!!image

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A Tree for Vicki

While the television told the story bit by bit as information became available, I felt this overwhelming need to do something. I and millions of others were trying to comprehend these terrible happenings.

And those feelings didn’t go away, so a few weeks later I did what i knew how to do; I called the Newtown Parks Department and offered to plant 26 trees. I knew that I could find people to help me with this big project. Then came the letdown, “We’ve received many offers of 26 trees and one set has arrived. Thank you but we can’t accommodate more.” We talked a while and I told the director about the Susie Forest. “Oh! I have a forwarded email from Victoria Soto’s family who don’t live in Newtown and have been left out of the loop for many of the activities. I’ll send it on.”

I thought about this for a while and realized that some of the families of staff members also didn’t live in Newtown and perhaps I could do something for them. I had Donna Soto’s address and I could offer her family a tree in Victoria’s home town. I wrote an email explaining who I was, what the Susie Forest was, and offered her a tree. I didn’t send it. I fussed and worried that I would be intrusive, that I would upset the family, and I would get a “NO!” After a few weeks I got mad at myself and pushed the ‘send’ button.

Shortly an answer came, “I love the idea of a tree.” imageThursday we planted a Liberty Elm at the playground built in her honor in Longbrook Park in imageStratford. Vicki’s family wrote tree-grams and shoveled and ate cookies as we talked about the loss of these wonderful women in our families. Their pain is so new and I hope the tree will be a place of solace for them. As we talked more children came to play on the bright green and pink (Vicki’s favorite colors) play imageimageequipment and there was laughter in the air. Vicki’s love of children will continue to have an outlet.

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An Adopted Tree

There are lots of street trees in Brooklyn Heights; is there room for one for Aaron? Since his death at the age of 19 I’ve wanted to plant a tree for this beautiful great-nephew. But how and where? I found that New York City would provide a free street tree to any property owner who asked, but the family’s apartment house has no tree pits and that would be a big expense. Then on the website I spotted a link to “Adopt-a-tree”.
And there I found my answer.

The city wants people to adopt trees to watch out for them, to water them if needed, to place fences and plant flowers around them. We couldn’t prolong Aaron’s life but perhaps in his name we could prolong the life of a special tree.

His mother chose a tree two blocks from the apartment house and just across the street from her workplace. Last night we dedicated Aaron’s tree. His parents, his brother, an aunt and uncle, imagehis grandmother and I wrote tree-grams and carried them down the street. Amy knew that it was the second London Planetree on the block, but second from which corner? After a group discussion, we chose the one we thought needed the most love.

Then the problem of hanging the tree-grams came. Amy had told me the lowest branches were way up there and I thought we could use a ladder and also told her about the dedication where the kids had ridden on the shoulders and heads of the adults to hang the tree-grams. imageWell, six foot three Amos standing on six foot eight Jim’s head wouldn’t get near that lowest branch. Does anyone have an “in” at the fire department? Ah, let’s hang them on the little fence around the tree and on the ivy that’s growing up the trunk. People will have to bend down to read them but that’s ok.

I tried to remember the ritual used by the cyclists on the Tour des Trees, but could only remember rubbing our hands together to get heat which is energy and then passing it on to the roots. Before I could tell everyone to aim their hands to the roots they put their hands on the trunk of Aaron’s tree. I think that could symbolize bringing energy to the whole tree.

We talked plans for the tree pit – perhaps a new fence, perhaps bricks from the family home in Glencoe, Illinois, perhaps some flowers, but definitely getting rid of the ivy.

We walked back down the street and later in the evening rain came to water our special new tree.

Now there is an adoptee in the Susie Forest.image

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Another Tour des Trees

I’ve made it to Bridgeport, CT after a wonderful weekend in Toronto. The Susie
Forest tree dedication which was on the last leg of the Tour des Trees was held on Ward’s Island, a part of Toronto Island Saturday. And I was so lucky to be able to stay with a wonderful woman on this terrific carless island. There were walkers and bikers everywhere. Susie would have loved it there.image

With lots of arborists on bicycles and Ward’s Island neighbors we dedicated a silver maple. I was introduced as Susie’s mom who was dedicating a tree to her, but I thought it should be a “yay, we made it” dedication for the cyclists and a celebration of the start of the second hundred years of the Ward’s Island Association. This tree has an awesome view of the Toronto skyline and I hope that someday I will be back to see how it’s grown and share its view again.image

Thanks to Warren Hozelton, the manager of the parks on Toronto Island who came up to me last year in Portland and invited me to come to another Tour des Trees and found me a wonderful hostess and a wonderful home to stay in here on the island. I want to imagekeep coming to these tours as long as they will have me.

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I’ve started packing for my first big trip this summer. In the suitcase I have a tree tote bag, tree-grams, painted stones, bookmarks, brochures, laminated bookmarks, clipboards and pens, tree ID’s, the Susie pictures and maps, camera – and cookies for five possible trees in Toronto, Connecticut and Brooklyn.

Where do I put the clothes?image

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