Nearly twenty years ago, we bought this, our first house. It was a blitzkrieg day, viewing house after house, some empty, some occupied, some small, some large. Our realtor took us all across North-of-Seattle King County as we searched the MLS for a home in our price- and requirement-range. This house, which we dubbed “Three Trunks,” was the third one we saw, and on arrival we knew it was the house we wanted. The rest of the day, viewing 17 more homes, was pretty much just spent confirming that first fact.
We called it “Three Trunks” because in the front garden near the street was a sad old triple-trunked alpine fir. I don’t know why, but for some reason alpine firs were popular in this neighborhood, sometime around the mid-1970s. When we take walks around the borough, we see them here and there. All of them are wretchedly ugly, stressed, and usually unhealthy, primarily because (duh!) Seattle is not an alpine climate.
The alpine fir in our front garden is uglier than most. After we moved in, our neighbors gave us the 4-1-1 on the old thing and let’s put it this way: It bore the scars of war.
When we bought the place, “Three Trunks” was about 35 years old. Sometime in his youth he had been cut down, the stump left behind. That stump put up new shoots; three new saplings growing up out of the old single stump. These three saplings grew, straight and tall, side by side by side, until they all reached the height of about 18 feet. One year the residents of the house put holiday lights on the lower branches. The wiring shorted out in the rain, and the trees caught fire, burning all of one and the lower branches of the other two. Still, he survived.
By the time we arrived, the only greenery on half of his branches was provided by moss and lichen. There were a few branches, high up, that still had green needles, but they were few and far between. Three Trunks was a favorite with local birds. Chickadees plundered his lichenous branches for nesting material, amorous titmice played hide-and-seek during mating season, and gluttonous blue jays used him as a hiding place for stolen peanuts.
His stoic, craggy appearance inspired the character of Three Trees Together in the Fallen Cloud Saga. He was a fixture in our front garden, an old veteran living out his final years. Until, finally, last year, he had his last season.
Today, we say goodbye. Our arborist (Trees for Life) is out there now, carving the old man up. The jays of the neighborhood are calling all around us, an alarum in blue feathers, warning, warning.
His stump will stay to rot and feed the roses planted at his feet. His three trunks will be pieced into six-foot lengths and laid in the back garden as nurse logs for fungi and bugs for the birds and other wildlife.
Three Trunks will be gone, but he will also stay with us, recycled, composted, repurposed, renewed.
Rest easy, old friend.