Reunion Trees

This week we planted a reunion tree at Lewis and Clark High School. This Thornless Cockspur Hawthorn is the second reunion tree in the Susie Forest. image

Last winter I received an email from a classmate of Susie’s who had learned of her death and the Susie Forest as she made phone calls about their 30th reunion. She contacted me and we had good talk about the times when she had sleepovers at our house. She wanted to suggest to the reunion committee that they plant a tree honoring the classmates they’ve lost. She came to the March 21st planting in Ruth Park and decided to push the idea.

I worked it out that I could be at the planting (by the bike racks) because the day of the reunion I’ll be in Toronto planting a tree with the Tour des Trees. Three classmates came and talked high school and shoveled and ate cookies.

In 2009 I planted the first reunion tree at Duke University during my 50th. I made this tree a gift from the class of 1959 to the class of 2059. In 50 (that’s 46 now) years that oak will be big and beautiful.image

I have another idea for a reunion tree. Plant a tree at graduation and then go back to every reunion at your alma mater, take pictures and watch it grow. Let me know if you decide to do this and the tree will become a part of the Susie Forest.

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Susie Forest Trees Revisited

Today I received some photos that made me think about revisiting Susie Forest trees. In a way I revisit a lot of the Spokane trees because I drive past them. I love to count how many trees it takes to get me to a location. I’m housesitting right now 22 trees from home. As I walk out of Franklin Hall I pass the two trees on the front lawn that I see every day, then I see six at Lewis and Clark High School, and two as I pass through Riverfront Park. No more trees until I get to Corbin Park where there are eight. I’m driving around the curve at the west end of the park and there are two street trees across the way. When I turn into the driveway of my “second” home I can spot the two Susie trees on the parkway in front. Wow! A “22 tree” trip!

Far away trees don’t get to be revisited very often and then there are some I’ve only seen in pictures. Two years ago I attended a Talcott family reunion in Hartford CT where an ancestor put up the first building 375 years earlier. Of course I planted a tree. It’s in the park across from the state Capitol. Today I received pictures from a member of the Talcott clan who traveled from Pennsylvania to Hartford and checked on our tree. imageIt’s looking so good! This was a chance to revisit a tree that I might not be able to see in person.

There are lots of trees in Spokane that are not on my regular routes and some I haven’t seen since their planting. Painting the stones and taking them to each tree in Spokane will give me a chance to enjoy them again and to see how they’re doing. This afternoon a friend and I went to Webster Park for a picnic and to place stones by the two trees there.image I planted them for two very good friends as a way to say thank you for all the years they’d been such staunch supporters. One of them has died and now her oak is a memorial and we can check on her tree and share our memories while we’re there.image

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I housesit (for trees). I’ve gotten to enjoy lots of different kinds of houses, including 1920’s bungalows, mid-century moderns, modular homes, split-levels and apartments. It’s like a mini vacation in a great environment (that I don’t have to clean).

In those houses I petsit. There are usually dogs or cats, sometimes both. One house had three cats, one dog and one fish. That’s my record. And I’ve also taken care of a very talkative bird and a prickly little hedgehog. Under my watch one fish died, but not the one in the pet-filled house.

While watching houses and pets I’m also plantsitting. I very closely watch the watering schedule because I have a purple thumb and am known for killing my own house plants. So far (fingers crossed) all my plant clients have and are surviving.

In the last month there have been two bonuses to my housesitting, petsitting, plantsitting jobs. Last month I stayed at a cute little house with a great backyard, a nice kitty — and three Susie trees, an Elberta peach in the backyard and two Amur maples in the planting strip out front.image

And now I’m staying at a 20’s bungalow with a fun cat and lots of house plants and two Susie trees. These beautiful Persian Parrotias stand by the curb.image

How do I treesit? I walk under them, I touch their trunks, I talk to them. I love Susie treesitting.

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Do trees have ambitions? I know that they want to reproduce and this spring Jack sneezed that he was tired of arboreal lust. Does each redwood try to outreach its neighbors in the race for the sky? Does the maple on the corner think it can produce more beautiful leaves in autumn than any other tree on the block? Does the oak in the park spread its limbs as far as possible to provide more shade than its rivals.

This past weekend one of the Susie trees in Riverfront succeeded in one of my ambitions for it. I went downtown on Sunday to watch a bit of Spokane’s Hoopfest. I wandered from game to game on the streets and then into the park to see what slacklining looks like. It was hot and I only watched for a few minutes asI turned to walk back through the park there was the Hardy Rubber Tree planted in 2008 to honor pedestrians hit or killed. It has grown enough to provide shade. The family of four looked very comfortable in that still small bit of shade. I wish I’d remembered my camera. (I went back on July 5 and took a picture of the shadow at a different angle.) imageGood job, little tree! Now it needs to keep working on one of my ambitions for all the Susie trees: To fulfill the potential of their species and to become Heritage Trees in their communities.

What are some of my other ambitions for these trees? I want these trees to be important to the people who planted with me and I want the trees to hold on to the hopes, dreams and memories written on the tree-grams hung in them.

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Okay, spring tree planting has ended and I’m feeling kind of low. I’d be even lower if it weren’t for a dedication on Monday. It was fun to get all the great people at the Corbin Senior Center to do the “Susie” around their Japanese Pagoda tree.image

So, to help me get through this withdrawal here is one of the poems that my friend Katherine Rimbach found.

By Liane Ellison Norman

Today they are cutting down
the old maple in the backyard,

a crew of three men, one
on a machine with long neck

that raises him into high branches;
one who has dismantled a part

of the fence that hugs the tree;
one wearing spikes, his chain saw

and other tools hooked to his belt;
high up, cutting thick branches

among dense leaves, working back
towards the scarred and damaged trunk.

The old maple has blushed faint
green in spring, glowed gold in fall,

spun lace in winter, runway and airport
for squirrels, birds – an owl one year –

a pair of woodpeckers who nested,
laid eggs: a starling killed the chicks.

But it’s older than we are old
and might come crashing down.

It’s being dismantled, the way
age dismantles, higher branches

cut first, then pruned back
until we can see from the sliced

raw trunk – twelve feet around –
an account of age. At dinner time,

Three squirrels, tentative, peer
over the fresh stump,

perplexed that their whole world
has vanished.


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What’s new?

So, what’s new in the Susie Forest world this spring planting season? I love getting new ideas for the planting ceremonies and new ideas for planting the trees.

This year I looked for sponsors and found three great people who were willing to donate for extra Susie trees. I hope they enjoy the idea so much that they will continue in the years to come.

And then there were the auctions. I’ve donated trees to the Bicycle Alliance of Washington’s auction every year and to the Methow Conservancy’s every other year, but this year auction donations went wild. My three imagesponsors all chose auctions to donate to and I found three Spokane groups that I wanted to help. I learned some lessons. Number 1. – trees don’t do well in silent auctions not even if I’m there to sell it. Number 2. – if I get to stand up and talk about the Susie Forest during a live auction I can get bids above the value of the tree. I have another live auction later this summer and I can’t get up and give my spiel so we’ll have to wait to see how it goes. imageThen I’ll make a decision about auctions for next year because I really want to make money for these important causes.

I’ve done Read for Trees programs since the second year of the Susie Forest in libraries and schools. Last year I branched out to a Sunday School and this year I tried a group of homeschoolers. They were very enthusiastic and the tree planting was such fun with Kat Hall from The Lands Council forming them into a working tree. We’ll see where this program leads me.

And last of all this was the year of the painted stones. It’s fun getting the paints and brushes out and deciding what kind of heart belongs on each stone. And I’m getting to go back and visit all the trees. I love this thread connecting all the trees in the Forest.image

I’m looking forward to seeing what new ideas come up during the next planting season.

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Trees for Loved Ones

There were two special trees dedicated recently. They were already in the ground, one planted last year and one planted a week earlier. These were planted for loved ones and dedicated by families and friends.

On a Sunday a family came to Cannon Hill Park to dedicate the tree for their patriarch. The tree had come through a tough start and we wondered if it was going to survive but was now flourishing. His daughter tearfully talked about her father and I could feel the love and respect this family had for him. Then things got more lighthearted. We wrote tree-grams but in order to get them hung in the very high branches, the children had to ride on the shoulders and head of the tallest family members.image

Monday’s tree was a street tree planted in front of a rental house. The current occupants wanted to honor a former housemate who was killed a year ago in a car crash. We sat on the front porch and talked about Susie and Lyle. One of his friends had tried not to even think about him for the last year but now was ready to share stories of him. They kept extra tree-grams so that family and other friends could come and write memories of him to hang in the tree. It would be a chance for all of them to talk about Lyle and to keep his memory fresh and alive.image

I love dedicating trees as memorials. I always tell Susie’s story and then I ask the others at the planting to tell me about the one they lost. There are laughter and tears and then pictures and stories. So many people are afraid to ask about people who have died and families are afraid to talk about their loved ones. There seems to be a fear of bringing up emotions and perhaps causing tears, but crying is OK. Eleven years after Susie’s death I still cry, but I feel I need to keep her out in the world where she should be and so I talk about her often. And I think that talking about Susie at a tree planting gives others permission to bring their loved ones back into the world. And I hope that that they can come to their tree and find the spirit of their loved one.

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Bits and Pieces and Trees

As we get closer to the end of planting season my tree world gets busier and busier. There is, of course, stone painting panic imageand cookie panic, imagebut in between there have been lots of great happenings.

Pictures arrived. Both on the same day. The first a set of pictures of the
imageSusie palm tree in Hawaii sent by the winner of the 2011 Bicycle Alliance auction and the second of the little tree whips in Walla Walla. imageThese are the first trees in these locations; the forest is spreading.

And there were three plantings in the last week. On Monday Becky’s poor white oak on Grand Boulevard was replaced by a sweet gum. imageThe arborist told me it would be a wonderful autumn introduction to Manito Park for northbound drivers on the boulevard. He told me it would turn red and yellow and orange and purple. I’ll have to drive that route a lot next fall.

Then we decided to put in the tree on 15th Ave. Yay, another street tree! and the residents of the house have already had compliments on their hedge mapleimage. This tree will honor one of the housemates who has died. His friends will gather next week and we’ll do a dedication ceremony.

On Tuesday I was a host for two members of the Friendship Force club from Cheyenne, Wyoming. As part of the sights I was showing them we drove down 21st Ave. and stopped to plant a treeimage. I love to plant trees here in Spokane for people from elsewhere because now they have roots here. Maybe they’ll come back to visit their tree sometime and I know that I’ll think of them every time I pass by this Zelkova.

I’m ending up the week trying to reach the arborists because I have been busy making promises to plant trees before the end of the planting season and that’s next week. We’ll see if I make good on them.

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This Is a Test, This Is Only a Test

Yesterday I took my abridged (but including tree kibbles) tree planting kit to Loma Vista Park and met the crew busy digging a really big hole for a really big Hedge Maple. This tree doesn’t honor any person, group or event; this Susie tree is testing the neighborhood. In years past there has been a lot of vandalism of young trees and Urban Forestry has been hesitant to keep planting. imageWe decided to find out if a fully tree-grammed Susie tree would turn tree vandals into tree lovers. And I know if something happens to this tree it will hurt only me and not someone I want to give happiness or comfort to. I drew and wrote and quoted and strung a dozen tree-grams to hang in this brave tree and then painted a stone to place at its roots. One of the arborists lives close by and will walk his dog by the park and keep a close watch on it. If this experiment works we have more plans for this park. Go, Susie tree, go!

This is a tall tree, in fact, as tall as the line of trees it is now a part of. Those trees were planted 30 years ago and I asked if they were a smaller type of tree. The answer was no. They were improperly planted too deep and have never reached their potential. I’ve often told people not to plant too deep and now I can seen the consequences.

Since I have more than 200 stones to paint I try to do a few every day. I was talking to a friend who watched me paint on Monday and she said she would fool around with ideas until she found a design she liked and then she would get them done assembly line style. Not me. Every stone will be different, although I might make some with similar ideas. I like to look at each stone and see where the heart is and then paint it. I couldn’t do the same design over and over again. Henry Ford wouldn’t agree but I’ll have a fun time. And since I’ll never stop planting trees I’ll never stop designing.image

After the tree planting I went to the Shadle Library and let the manager choose which stones she wanted me to place by the two library trees. That was fun and then I walked into the park to look for the the three trees that are planted there. I found the first right off and gave it a stone. As I headed down the pathway I saw three trees that could be the second one I was looking for, so I searched through the lower branches for signs of tree-gram holding twine. No luck. I think I’ll give the stone to the family and let them place it. But I do need to figure out which tree it is. I couldn’t find the last. I planted it for a Shadle High ecology student and I feel sure we planted it further away from the play area than the only tree that was a candidate. The school made renovations to their playfields and there might have been some tree removals. I’ll have to find out.

There are, as of yesterday, 223 individual Susie Forest trees and three groves in the city of Spokane. Some I see and check on often and some are in areas I don’t visit on a regular basis. Placing the stones will take me back to some of these. I hope I can find them all.

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I love how the people who come to tree plantings give me ideas for the
Susie Forest dedications and Saturday I loved how a man there put one of the pieces of the dedication into perspective. After I told the story of the painted stones he came up and asked some questions. “Yes,” I said, “I pick up a stone at one tree planting, paint a heart on it and place by the roots of another tree.” “Mmm, he mused, “a thread . . .” “Aha,” I thought and didn’t hear anything else he said. image

That “thread” ran through my head all day and then I put it into a sentence: the stones are a thread that weaves the individual Susie trees into the Susie Forest.

But now I have a problem. I have to connect that thread through the trees, at least in Spokane and that means 222 stones – so far. I began picking up stones at the plantings a few years ago and putting them in a little garden area behind the apartment house and when that filled up on the counter in the kitchen. That started looking kind of silly so I stopped picking up stones. Now that I need stones I’ve started picking up two at a time.

I thought of threads at tree plantings today. A Japanese Pagoda was planted as a retirement tree for Sally, the wonderful leader at the Finch Arboretum. She has helped me get trees planted there and has come out to other parks to help plant Susie trees. She was there in Stone Park digging the hole in a March 21st blizzard a few years ago helping to plant an anniversary tree. I hope she will see this tree as a thread imageconnecting all those trees and will help keep us connected during our retirements.

The second tree, a hedge maple,went into Audubon Park but the dedication will be held later. This tree is for Ellen, a great gal that I worked with at the library. This tree is a thread connecting the times we spent working together, enjoying the symphony together and even walking a couple of Volkswalks. Most importantly this tree weaves us together as mothers who have lost adult children. I hope this tree helps her as all the trees have saved me.

I sit here looking at that pile of stones. Time to get out the paint and brushes.

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