(photo of downed tree in St. Edward’s Park, Kenmore WA)
Sunday morning and I slowly wake to the sensation of being in a storm at sea. I’m in bed, not a boat, and not being tossed by waves. What haunts is the sound of wind moving through the evergreens that ring our property. The firs and cedars look to be three or four stories high and the gaps between them are filled in by scrappy alders, someday-queenly maples, and other upwardly-mobile deciduous trees. All along Catwhisker Road, you’ll find pockets of these combos—the year-round greens and their naked-in-winter comrades. Not to mention the fallen trunks, slowly rotting away. There’s a greenbelt behind our house, and it, too, is dense with the ever-living, the dormant, and the dead.
When the weather’s calm, I think of these big trees as our friends and sentinels. They give shade and shelter to untold numbers of birds, beetles and rodents. They’re solid and reassuring. If a drunk/texting teenager/upset woman/heart attack victim behind the wheel veered off Catwhisker Road and headed toward our house, the trees would put a firm stop to their trajectory. Which is good, because who wants to end up on the evening news with a video of a car’s rear end hanging out from what used to be our living room? (NOTE: this is on my internal list of Paranoid Possibilities which occasionally run through my head like background muzak.)
But when it’s windy, like this morning, the trees’ upper foliage amplifies the sound. The sentinel trees sway drunkenly and their trunks, which seem so solid, sometimes tilt at a worrisome angle. When it blows hard, I look around the property to see which tree seems most likely to surrender and crash to the ground. If one fell on our house while we were sleeping, would it crush us? (NOTE: this also is on my list of Paranoid Possibilities.)
The odds of this happening depend on how healthy the trees are. Apparently, an evergreen can look just fine on the outside but be rotting away on the inside, like Dorian Gray. Then a big wind comes along and topples it. Also, for such impressive upper-story growth, an evergreen has shallow roots. When the ground gets spongy with rain, the roots give way.
The wind has died and the skies are clearing. I’ll take Reba for a walk and see what debris has been scattered overnight. There’s always something—a gnarly tree limb frosted in moss, a bouquet of green needles, a carpet of rust-colored cedar needles. I walk the ring of evergreens and check out their trunks. They seem solid enough. I’ll take my chances and live with these beautiful monsters.