I miss my trees.
A few weeks ago, we had several large spruce trees removed from our front yard. I don’t know how old they were, but they were big when we moved into the house 20 years ago. A few of them had beetles, and the ones that didn’t were growing so close, they likely wouldn’t stand very well on their own with their neighbor gone.
I was sad to see them go, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. My kids felt some nostalgia — some of those trees had been bases for Wiffle Ball games as they were growing up (getting the ball stuck in the branches was an automatic home run).
That wasn’t the reason I was missing the trees. With the kids both out of the house, there’s been plenty of reason for nostalgia over the past couple of months. The trees, for me, aren’t one of them. Getting the ball out of the branches was always a pain in the butt anyway.
The house feels kind of naked and exposed with the big trees gone. It’s a good thing we finally got around to painting this summer, because you can see everything from the street — no trees to obscure the view of peeling trim. But that just gives me a good excuse to put out even more Christmas lights this year.
So why was I feeling down about losing the trees?
It hit me during a conversation with a friend who was lamenting about not being able to get out on the trails with all the recent rain making a muddy mess of things. The trees were part of my daily nature therapy. With the trees gone, I’m going to have to come up with an alternative.
I’m one of those people who, when stressed out, always feels better after a walk in the woods, even just the short one from the driveway to the front door. While we live in a subdivision in town, the big trees always gave our home a woodsy feel. When we looked out the front window, the trees filled the view. We could sit on the couch and watch the birds and squirrels in their branches. It was very soothing.
I know there are a lot of peninsula residents missing trees right now, after the Swan Lake fire this summer. Many of us are thinking about future trips to some of our favorite places, and wondering what they look like now. Having a few trees removed from my yard might not be a good comparison, but to me, the emotional impact is the same.
Just like the forest will grow back, I will find something else to fill the empty space in the yard. It will take some negotiation. My wife and I both like a low-maintenance landscape, but we have different ideas of what that is. She thinks we need more lawn, but the reason she sees that as low-maintenance is because she isn’t usually the one who has to mow it. With the kids gone, that chore falls on me, and while it would be easier with fewer trees to work around, it would also be easier of there were less lawn to mow.
My idea of low-maintenance is going for more of a natural, woodsy look. My landscaping philosophy is to plant something, and if it survives with minimal care, it stays. Native plants always work best. We have a patch of wild roses, and when they’re in bloom, it’s my favorite spot in the yard. I collected wild lupine seeds over the summer; hopefully, some of them will sprout next spring.
Figuring out how to replace the trees will take a lot more thought. My neighbors have some mountain ash trees we really like. We have a lilac that’s never really thrived; maybe we can move it to what will be a much sunnier spot. A birch tree would really complement the new color of the house. I’ve heard rumors of people being able to grow maple trees here; that would certainly remind me of the woods where I grew up in New England.
Maybe I should plant them in a diamond shape, so they’re ready to be used as bases whenever grandkids might come along.
I guess I’ve got all winter to figure out how to give my yard that woodsy feel again.
But right now, the house looks naked and I need to stock up on Christmas lights.
Will Morrow lives in Kenai. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• By Will Morrow, For the Peninsula Clarion