There were some disappointments this week. I waited all week to hear from Walla Walla about a tree that was going to be planted on Earth Day by a group of Americorps workers. When I couldn’t stand it any more I emailed and the answer came back that they hadn’t planted an individual tree but more than 100 seedlings. I decided to ask if they wanted to count all those tiny trees as a grove. I already have three groves in Spokane, so why not one in Walla Walla. I’m awaiting an answer and I’m hoping I won’t be disappointed.

I was working with a really nice lady who wanted to plant a tree in Camp Caro to honor her father this weekend. And sadly that hasn’t worked out for this spring. We both have hopes that it will happen sometime in the future. And then the disappointment will be over for both of us.

Luckily there were only two disappointments so this is a short blog. Oh, there’s another one. Today I walked along the river into Riverfront Park and looked at the Susie Grove we planted for the tenth anniversary of Susie’s death. Some of those Ponderosas look so bad and some close to death. But, they will be replaced and the the disappoint ment will be gone. Don’t be disappointed in this picture.

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Thoughts on Philanthropy

imageSarah Bain introduced me to her class on Monday by telling them I was her favorite philanthropist “by far”. I never think of myself as a philanthropist but as a survivalist. I feel so lucky to have a way to live without Susie, a way that respects her and is an expression of her joyful enthusiasm.

I guess I know in a way that I’m a philanthropist when I take that tax deduction for each tree donation but I think of that money as paying for a gift. And it is a gift to so many. I get the deduction because each $300 is a gift to Urban Forestry’s fund at The Lands Council. But it goes beyond that. First of all, it is a gift to me and Susie’s family. It is a gift of remembrance or comfort or celebration to those I give the tree to. It is a gift of a party to those who attend the planting. It is a gift of beauty to the city. And it is a gift of shade and clean air to the future. So many gifts from one donation.

And I push philanthropy. I can’t help but sell the idea of planting trees. My son says that I can find a really good and original reason why anyone should plant a tree. And I love helping people who want to plant a tree. I want to make every tree meaningful.

I guess that I am a philanthropist.

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I Talked I Planted I Won

Arbor Day is always a fun day, talking to the people who come to the festival, visiting with the tree people I haven’t seen for a while, and planting a tree.

I manned the Urban Forestry table for most of the time and of course I talked most of the time about the Susie Forest. I don’t think I talked any of the attendees into planting a tree, however, I may have gotten some tree people to think about some personal trees.
The Arbor Day Tree this year was a Japanese Tree Lilac and we had a special shoveler, Aqua Duck from the Spokane Aquifer Joint Board. Mayor Condon came with his children and they (especially the children) did lots of shoveling. This was tree #219 in Spokane.

I walked around looking at all the booths and bought three tickets to tree drawings sponsored by the Finch Arboretum Conservators. Last year I bought a ticket and there were so few entries that I felt sure that I would be a winner. NOT! And this year? I won THREE trees!
When they called my name for the first tree I had to find the arborist Jeff Perry to choose the tree because it is going to the Urban Forestry nursery. He chose the mountain maple and went back to what he was doing. He had to be called back to choose the limber pine and the yew. Once they do some growing they will be planted in the Susie Forest.image

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Lots of tree stuff going on this week. Some were scheduled and some were surprises.

The tree at the Library Foundation didn’t bring as much money as I had hoped, but – the winner is a FUN co-worker from the library and it will be a real FUN tree planting. I can’t wait to hear where and how he wants to put his tree in the ground.

On Sunday Jack and I went over to Westgate Park so that Jack could see the two trees we planted on Susie’s birthday. Barbara Anderson had prepared a picture and information about her astronaut son Michael, but it was too large for the laminating material I had brought and I promised I would fix and hang it on our trip to the trees. It was a large piece of paper and so I reduced it so it would hang better and still be readable. While at Susie’s tree I noticed a family walking from the play area to their car and the mother stopped at Michael’s tree and looked quizzically at the tree-grams. So, of course, I started telling her about the tree. “Oh,” she said, “I sang at Michael and Sandra’s wedding.” They will be moving to the neighborhood soon and I told them to watch out for the tree. Sometimes you’re meant to be in a certain place at a certain time.image

This was not supposed to be a surprise but I was surprised when I looked at my calendar Sunday night and found that I was scheduled to speak at Sarah Blain’s philanthropy class Monday night. Whew! I had enough cookies. It was a great evening just like it was last year and like last year I was pushing for a tree at Whitworth. After all it’s a philanthropy class and it would be an act of philanthropy to plant a tree on campus. What was the most interesting question? Do you sell the cookies?

Tuesday morning brought a heartwarming surprise. As I was reading the newspaper the iPad dinged and so I dropped the paper and picked it up and there was an email from the Great Rivers Greenway in St Louis. This was one of the groups that helped me get Susie’s birthday tree planted in the National Park by the Gateway Arch in 2011. At the ceremony I talked about the number of trees in different cities and someone said that they could outplant Chicago and Portland. Well, as of Friday, St Louis will have five trees, Chicago four, and Portland three. There will be a ribbon cutting for the Centennial Greenway and because it’s Arbor Day they will plant four trees dedicated to the four cities connected by the trail – and to Susie who lost her life there. I sent a copy of the front and back of the bookmark so they would have some info about her.image

Here’s a link to their blog which quotes my answer to their query:


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Auction Month

This is a big auction month for the Susie Forest. I donated trees for the auctions of three great local organizations. Last Saturday after spending 3 1/2 hours selling the Bicycle Alliance at the Spokane Bike Swap I headed for The Lands Council auction downtown at the Doubletree Hotel. I got to stand by the display for the Susie Tree and try to sell it. I had a fun evening talking to lots of people. Two placed bids and several promised to come back toward closing time. Nobody did and The Lands Council didn’t get as much money as I would have liked, but the winner was a member of City Council and maybe we can get some good attention from the planting.

Now I’m working on the display for the Library Foundation auction Saturday night. They close the library, bring in a band and food and lots of fun people. All the “SHHH!!” signs are turned to the wall and everybody lets loose. I won’t be there selling so I hope someone lets loose a lot of money for a planting. I’m pushing the planting as a way to thank the forest for all the books you’ve read.image

On Monday I’ll pick up the display at the library and rework it for the Spokane Preservation Advocates auction on the 27th. This group loves the big, beautiful, old street trees and were backers of the new Heritage Tree ordinance which honors significant city trees, so I’m advertising this auction item as a way to plant a Heritage Tree of the future.

So if you’re going to one of these auctions look for my display and bid a lot for the tree. I’ll bring cookies to the planting and we’ll have a great time.image

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Happy Birthday

April 16 is a special day for me and I’ve found it to be that way for lots of people. Of course, for me it’s special because it’s Susie’s birthday. And it’s Susie’s namesake Susie Campbell’s birthday also. Susie’s dog, Tilly, lives in the Methow Valley with Brad Martin who is celebrating his big day today.

For several years I have wanted to plant a tree for the family of Michael Anderson, the Spokane astronaut who was killed ten years ago in the Columbia space shuttle disaster. I knew his family still lived here but it’s hard to find an Anderson when you don’t know how they are listed in the phone book. I found that a former coworker at the library had a connection to the Anderson family and he said he would get me a phone number. He’s a wonderful guy, but very forgetful and despite several reminders he couldn’t seem to remember to get me the info. Luckily, one day last year I spotted his sister at a department store and she was able to give me the number of a family member and through her I finally spoke to Michael’s mother.image

Barbara Anderson said she would like to have a Susie Forest tree and we decided to put off the planting until this year because of her busy schedule. When I spoke to her early this year she thought it would be nice to plant the tree on her birthday. “When is that?” I asked. “April 16th,” she answered. “Wow! We’ll plant two trees that day!” And we did – a Persian Parrotia for Barbara and a Hedge Maple for Susie. Many friends came and we ate cake and talked about these two wonderful people we lost too soon.image

Susie is still influencing people eleven years after her death. Jack and I decided to celebrate her birthday by eating at an Asian restaurant. I told the waitress why we were eating there and gave her bookmarks. She read one and asked me to hand another to coworker right then because he needed to see it. He read, “Today’s lesson: If you don’t like where you are, pedal.” “There are things going on in my life and I needed to see this. Thank you.” He thanked me several times before we left. Thank you, Susie, for still being there for people.

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Spring Has Arrived

The green glow arrived Saturday on my street. At the beginningimage of April I always look for that glow that trees get just as they leaf out. That ritual started on our second trip to the hospital April 16,1965, to see if Susie was ready to face the world. On the 13th the trees were bare and she decided the time wasn’t right. We headed back on the 16th through the green glow for a second try and happily she decided it was time. So this is the 48th spring I’ve carefully watched the trees.

This afternoon I gave my first tree talk of 2013. After a wonderful lunch and fun conversation I stood in front of a fireplace imageand began my talk to the Hamblen Park Garden Club. This was my second time as speaker with this group; the first was in March, 2006 when there were 22 trees in the Susie Forest. Twenty of them were in the city of Spokane and two in Bothel, WA. There were no trees in Spokane County or across the country or around the world. It was fun to talk about the growth of the Forest. And I told the ladies about how the tree planting ceremony evolved with additions and ideas from the people who participated. Then I ended by telling the stories of some of the trees. It was hard to stop because every tree has a story. Maybe I’ll be invited back in another seven years with a much bigger Forest to talk about.

This was a delightful afternoon – now I have to get ready for an auction Saturday evening.

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I Have a Magic Tree

Oh, the power of trees! imageWhy did my iPad stop hooking up to the Internet? Was there something amiss with Jack’s wi-fi or is the iPad messed up? I decided to walk downtown to get some help from the store I bought it from. It was a beautiful day and I stopped by the Susie Forest ash tree in front of the apartment house to check to see if it was ready to spring forth. As I looked at one of the twigs imageI heard the familiar ding that announces an incoming e-mail. The iPad works by the Susie tree! I ran back in to see if it worked in the apartment. No. Now we know that the problem is with the wi-fi, but until we fix it I’ll run out to the magic tree when I need to get online. Last night I went out at 9:30 to check on something and stood out by the tree reading all the e-mail that had accumulated. I suddenly realized that someone was standing in the dark on the corner watching me. I got inside quickly. I won’t stand by my magic tree at night any more.

Time to get this out even if it’s short, so I don’t have to go outside in the dark. I’ll be back soon with a new blog about a project I’m working on.

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Tilly’s Tree-gram

Susie had a dog, Waltzing Matilda, known as Tilly and a cat named Banjo (after the author of Waltzing Matilda). The cat went to live with a friend of mine and has since died. But Tilly is living a happy life in the Methow valley and when I visit the valley I go to see her and Susie’s friend Brad who has given her such a good home.image

A few years ago I had this great idea – I would get her paw print and make a rubber stamp. Then Tilly would have a tree-gram on the trees for Susie. Brad and I tried to get her to step on the ink pad but she was too excited and too muddy. I left the pad in hopes that Brad could catch her on a dry day. I didn’t hear from him.

Last fall at the dedication of the Susie Stephens Trail, Brad handed me a slightly wrinkled piece of paper with a purple paw print on it. YES! – but. There was so much hair between the toes that I didn’t see how a rubber stamp could be made. Could he try to clean up a foot and try again? I didn’t hear from him.

Then I used my brain; I scanned the print it into the computer. But, as usual, this ungeeky person couldn’t get the machine to print where I wanted it to. You can’t make tree-grams with the print right in the middle of the page. I scanned again and this time I made it work and got three prints on a 8.5×11 piece of grocery bag.image

On Sunday Jack and I went to visit Susie’s newest anniversary tree in Ruth Park and hung a beautiful purple paw print.

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An Anniversary Tree for Susie

Eleven years ago my morning was very normal. Before I left for work a letter from Susie that I had read to a friend fell off the bookcase where I had stashed it instead of putting it away. The letter began, “Dear Mom, Today’s lesson: if you don’t like where you are, pedal.” It must have imagesnowed because I didn’t drive to the library. All went as usual until the phone rang in the break room – it was Jack in tears telling me that a police chaplain had come to tell him that Susie was dead. I told him that I didn’t believe it and that I would check. I made an hysterical call to her answering machine in Winthrop. Then I called either the Methow Conservancy or the Bicycle Alliance and was told it was true. Susie had been run over and killed by a bus in St Louis.

The South Hill staff rallied around me while still keeping the library running. No one left me alone. Kristen took notes for me; Marshall got tickets for Jack to fly home. Jan called my friend Ruth to drive me home. The police chaplain came and offered consolation and help. I asked her to have a chaplain to go to Becky in Puyallup and tell her. Ruth came to take me home and I only have one memory from the rest of the day. I realized that I had not heard from Becky so I called and found that a chaplain had never contacted her. So I had to tell her that her sister was dead.

Now it’s time to leave those sorrowful memories and go to joy – planting imagea linden in Ruth Park. This tree planting is always a small private affair. This year Susie’s childhood friend, Amy Warren, came with her yearbooks and Susie’s signings. Despite the cold and the graupel it was a joyful tree planting. These trees are one way I keep you and your influences out in the world where you should be.

Oh, Susie, the dream of the phone ringing and hearing your “Hey Mom, it’s Susie” is fading after eleven years. On these anniversary days I think about what you might have accomplished during these years. Would you have a big, famous consulting firm? Would you be living in your hay bale house? Would you have found the right man? Would you have gotten into politics? Shortly after your death I accepted a posthumous award in your name and was asked if I wanted to speak. This chicken replied that I wouldn’t know until I was standing there. So I prepared. I started with an anonymous quote I found, “Life is not too short, it is too narrow”. Your life was TOO short but it was NOT narrow. I did speak and I listed all the things you’d done in your short life. Afterwards Becky told me all the things I forgot. These last eleven would have been filled with accomplishments and adventures.

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