Gifts of Nature

Hi Friends!

I bundled up warmly at sunrise on that February morning. My heart told me that there was something very important that I must do… and I always listen to my heart! 💗

I hugged a tree… two trees, in fact.

It was a day to thank our towering pines for the many gifts they have bestowed upon us for over one hundred years ~ homes for the cardinals and other birds, a playground for the squirrels, and cool shade for the hostas, ferns, and mature perennials that thrived beneath them. Such an important gift for our climate, as well. Every few years, an arborist would come to check our pine trees and trim a few branches. He always shared the happy news that our pines were in good health.

As I hugged the trees, gratitude filled my heart! Our pine trees have provided a magnificent background for many of our treasured family photos over the past thirty five years. They provided welcome shade on our deck for quiet mornings, yoga practice, family Fourth of July celebrations, and tea parties with friends. They shaded teacher curriculum-planning sessions on so many summer mornings. The beautiful pines were always appreciated as we talked late into the night with family and friends, from near and far. The neighbors enjoyed the far-reaching branches that shaded their family gatherings, too. What fun to hang a piñata from the lowest pine branches for their birthday parties! Every year in early December, I loved to snip a few pine greens and gather fallen pine cones to fill an antique wooden box and to mix with dried garden gatherings to decorate an antique sled for our front porch.

Our towering pines watched over many life changing moments, too. My husband and I spent many hours getting to know one another while relaxing on my shady deck. A truly heartwarming part of our first date, on a Sunday afternoon in July nearly twenty years ago, was spent talking on my shady deck. The pines cooled our deck and entire backyard for the special picnic where both of our families had fun getting to know one another following our engagement! The following summer, my mom and I spent a lovely June afternoon on our shady deck tying bundles of flowers from my garden with satin ribbons, to hang from the chairs for our Victorian-style wedding ceremony. Ten years ago, the pines shaded our wonderful family celebration in honor of my dad’s 80th birthday.

If those trees could talk, they would tell so many stories of the single woman who dreamed of owning a home of her own to put down roots so long ago. The moment she saw the cozy, little 1922 bungalow, with a swing on the front porch, a big garden, and two towering pine trees… it was love at first sight!💗

Alas, there are BIG changes happening nearby! A very large, new home will be built next door. Half of the branches and half of the root systems would soon be destroyed. Our towering pines couldn’t safely survive the construction next door. So, my hugs and thanks that February morning were also a heartbroken ‘goodbye’ to our beloved pine trees.

Just a few hours later, the heavy equipment arrived…

A week earlier, I met with Matt, the tree man. I had two very important requests! He must be sure to protect my mom’s beautiful Rhododendron that grew on the edge of my Shade Garden, beneath the long reaching pine branches. This large plant grew in my childhood garden and is almost as old as I am. It was a gift to my garden many years ago when my parents moved to Arizona. Every summer, its large, pink blossoms warm my heart! My second wish was to have several slices of the tree trunks to use in a future garden project. Matt promised that he would make my wishes come true!

Oh my! It was a sight to behold! As I safely watched from the door of our deck, Matt worked from high in the air with pinpoint accuracy, cutting long branches, dropping them in the space between my white picket fence Herb & Tea Garden, our deck, and our roof. Mountains of branches were chipped into pine mulch. His team of four worked with guide ropes, chain saws, helmets, and ear protection.

As I watched the crew from the window, they were also watching me! It must have been entertaining to watch the little lady alternating between covering her eyes, giving thumbs up, and prayer hands of thanks as they worked. The four, strong men on the ground performed a ballet of twirls, turns, and leaps to quickly guide the falling limbs away from Mom’s Rhododendron.

Our century old pines towered over 75 feet tall. Our little house shook and my teacup collection rattled as each thirty foot section of trunk plummeted to the ground, landing in an ever-growing pile of branches in the neighbor’s yard.

The white sheet marks my mom’s Rhododendron surrounded by fallen pine branches.

When there was a safe path through the yard, I walked out to carefully uncover Mom’s special plant. It was perfect! Only two flower buds had fallen to the ground.

(You can see my beautiful mom and her Rhododendron in bloom

last summer here. Such a treasured photo.💗)

I walked over to thank the crew for their very careful work and to take a closer look at the fallen tree trunks. That’s when I discovered it…

a final gift from our towering pines!

A huge heart!

None of the crew noticed it… but I saw it right away!

It felt like a final gift of love from our pines.

We will find a way to use the carefully cut wood slices in our new, sunny garden design in the coming months. Although our towering pines are no longer with us, they will always be a huge part of our story!

We cherish their lovely memories…

and ALL of the gifts they gave us over the years!

🌸 🌸 🌸

Wishing you many Springtime blessings!

Stay safe and healthy!

Warmest hugs,

💗 Dawn

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20 thoughts on “Gifts of Nature

  1. Hi Dawn, It is such a shame that you had to sacrifice your beautiful and much loved pine trees for progress and that of a building of a macmansion. With all the shade they provided, for your shaded garden too, I hope you can in their honor plant another tree. I was in your town not that long ago for a bridal shower at Wilder. Afterwards I drover around a bit since I wasnt out that way since we moved from VP. And was taken aback with how many of the cute bungalows, craftsman, and cottages fell and gave way to the new much bigger houses. I hope your new neighbors truly appreciate the decision you made for them by cutting down those much loved,healthy and amazing trees. The heart they left is also a sign that they apprecited all the care you gave them. Hugs.

    • It’s so nice to hear from you, Cynde! Over the years, we have watched the small, older homes disappear in the name of progress. So, we knew that one day it would happen near us, too. My ‘word’ for this year is FLOW and I’m going with the flow, when challenges arise! I’m excited to watch the new home being built. It will be beautiful! This summer I will begin to plan fun changes to my garden. I’m already thinking about new, flowering trees to plant!
      Thank you so much for stopping to chat, Cynde! Sending many blessings your way!💗

  2. Oh goodness, dear Dawn, I was holding my breath as I read your account. I understand this issue all too well and feel just like you when the special “friends” of our gardens have to fall. We too have had quite a change in our landscape as many and I mean many trees have had to be removed. You have written all about your lovely times under the view of your lovely giants. It’s so lovely to find the heart of the tree has spoken to you with such a gift. I’m sure you will find the perfect spot to keep your treasure. Love and hugs to you, my friend!

    • I thought of you and your beautiful trees as I was writing, Martha Ellen! I knew you would share words of wisdom. It was such an amazing ‘gift’ to find the heart shape. In another bit of synchronicity, that February day was Valentine’s Day!💕I’m so grateful that I can preserve and share special stories here on the blog.
      I hope that you, Grayden, and Samuel are all well. I think of you so often, dear friend! Thank you for always being here! Sending Easter blessings all the way to Virginia!💗

  3. What a heartfelt post about your pines. ❤️ And I can relate. Although in my circumstance, I only lost one of three. In our back yard we had 3 Live Oak trees; I think it is Jim’s favorite tree. It might be the sole reason he bought this property 27 years ago. We have many, many trees on our property, mostly pecan, but only these 3 live oak. They were situated in such a way, all in a row and the perfect distance for hammocks. So we had his and her hammocks for many years. I remember us working all morning into the afternoon and then getting showered and heading out to our hammocks, sometimes our books in hand to spend the rest of our day reading and napping under the canopy of the live oaks. About 3 years ago I had the tree people out to work on just the trees in the yard. It was decided at that time for the health of two of the trees, the middle tree would need to be removed. I seriously was grateful for Jim’s dementia, because I know how upset he would have been to lose not only that live oak, but our twin hammocks as well. I love that you kept something of your trees to stay on in your garden and thumbs up to your tree workers for not damaging your mother’s Rhododendron. If they were like my tree guys, as messy as it is to take down a tree, when they left it was like they were never here, except for the missing tree. Change is hard.
    Earlier this year on Joe Gardener’s Podcast he had author Peter Wohlleben of The Hidden Life of Trees, about how trees feel and communicate. It was a fascinating podcast and I have his book on my wish list, so I don’t forget to get it someday.
    “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” John Muir
    I hope spring is headed your way. Our weather is warm, actually hot some days, but spring is lagging far behind. I wait patiently. My hummingbirds are back and my barn swallows are remodeling last years nest on the corner of the porch and so it all begins again.
    So happy to hear from you. Stay safe as well and may we all find peace.

    • Oh, Chris! It just melted my heart to imagine you and Jim relaxing in two wonderful hammocks beneath your three Live Oaks!🙏🏼 Hold tight to those precious memories, dear heart!
      When I moved here 35 years ago, my dear neighbor, Mildred, shared the story of our pines with me. They came from her grandmother’s farm in Wisconsin. Originally, there were three pines, but as they grew bigger and bigger, the previous owner of my house had to remove the pine tree in the middle.
      Change is hard. I’m trying to focus on the fascinating parts. I’ve never watched a new home being built one day at a time! In my heart, I will always treasure preserving and restoring old homes. Our home turns 100 years old this year!!💕
      I love hearing about Springtime in West Texas, Chris! We have had a cool, rainy Spring this year. Several light snowfalls in recent weeks, too! On dry days, I have been been busy with garden cleanup. Some days, it is too hard to be in the garden, with lots of heavy equipment digging and diesel fumes wafting over from the property next door. Every day, I peek at the Shade Garden bed where the pines stood. I keep watching to see if any favorite, shade perennials survived the stump grinding in February.
      The Crocuses, Daffodils, and Scilla are in full bloom. Our Magnolia tree, near the front porch, is just beginning to show color! We have to wait very patiently here in Illinois. Our safe planting date is May 15th. We are still having frosty mornings!
      Thank you for the podcast recommendation! I will check it out! I promise to email you soon, Chris, with some special thanks.💕 Sending many, many Easter blessings and big hugs!💗

  4. I may have inadvertently left part of a comment. I wanted to say that you have a cup-half-full world view. It’s refreshing and loving. It’s hard to lose any mature tree and harder still with so many beautiful memories. A towering pine hangs over the back corner of our lot but it grows in the neighboring yard. The squirrels chase each other through the branches and the crows sway the branches when they land. Tiny hummingbirds disappear into the tree and the occasional pine cone makes landfall. I would be crestfallen to see it go. Should it happen, I will take a page from your book. Xo

    • Oh, that’s always been my nature, Alys! I always look for something to be grateful for. Our wonderful memories of the pine trees will always warm my heart!
      I’ve wondered for several years if this might happen one day. It was only a matter of time until Mildred’s little house would be torn down to make way for a huge new house. There just wouldn’t be room for both a huge house and towering pines! The new house next door will include a three-car garage, four bedrooms, and 4.5 bathrooms. Our cozy, little house will literally be the gardener’s cottage in the shade of the big house. So, lots of changes are coming! When I plant new, small trees, I will try to choose the best location in our yard so that they will be able to grow for many, many, many years!💕
      The squirrels loved to frolic on the long, pine branches here, too. Now there is one squirrel that comes to sit on the deck railing every day to munch any pine cones he finds in the garden. We’ve named him Piney. We’re certain that he misses the towering pines, too! I will truly miss the cardinals that would perch on the branches all year long. It was lovely to see their bright, red feathers against the snowy branches, like Mother Nature’s Christmas card!
      Heartfelt thanks for always being here, Alys! Sending huge hugs all the way to California, dear friend! Wishing you and your family a Happy Easter! 💗

      • I’m happy to hear you’re planning for new trees. I’m sure the squirrels will enjoy them along with the birds, insects, and perhaps the odd cat needing a break from the terra firma. We have a community in San Jose called Willow Glen. For several years, people tore down the smaller homes and built what were nicknamed “monster houses.” They used up the entire lot, leaving no room for gardens and casting unwanted shade. Its a personal choice of course, but I wish building codes would take into account the neighbors space too. It created a lot of ill will. So it goes. You are a good soul, Dawn. I admire you greatly.

      • I’m sure it will be a big learning experience for us all, Alys! I always have questions for the builder and he has been very good about answering them. It will be a lovely home for the new family that decides to buy it. They will be doubly blessed because just a few blocks away, a brand new, state-of-the-art elementary school will open in the Fall. Just image all of the wonderful features in a brand new school! I’m so excited to visit the school when they hold an Open House! This will definitely be a year of adjustment to all of the changes… and we are hoping for the best. I’m calling upon my ‘word’ for 2022, as I try to FLOW with grace through all of the changes! I have another post filled with special memories to share soon.
        Hope you are enjoying quiet times in your beautiful garden, dear friend! Every time I think of you, I think of sweet peas in bloom! Sending hugs! 💗

  5. Oh my gosh Dawn. That did it. Had tears rolling down my face reading about your precious trees. What wonderful memories you have. You are so inspiring. I just hope if I’m ever in a similar situation I would deal with it half as well. I’m sure it’s been a process. I love that you had some control over the process. I’m sure the guys understood how much love those trees held. And then the heart shaped trunk. 💖💖💖Did you get to use the mulch on your garden?
    A timely reminder that nothing stays the same. Much love to you my friend xox 💖

    • Huge hugs, Vicky! Your long email yesterday felt like a visit from a dear friend! You have been on my heart all day. I hope you and your home were not affected by the Cyclone approaching the North Island of NZ!
      All those years, as I tended the flowers growing near the tree trunks, there never appeared to be a special shape. However, the trunk revealed its secret when it was sliced! Synchronicity!💕
      I’m so grateful that the workers understood just how important it was to save my mom’s Rhododendron! (Perhaps it was because I offered to stand right next to the plant to remind them!😉)
      Vicky, I know that your long growing season allows your trees to grow very quickly. In a few short years, you have created a lush paradise on your land. We will have to be so mindful of where the new, small trees are planted in our yard, so that they they will have plenty of space as they mature over many years!
      I spread the mulch that came from grinding out the stumps all through the Shade Garden bed. Now I’m checking every day to see which plants survived. I think they will need to be moved to a small, shady area near my Herb & Tea Garden or along the garage. My garden journal will be filled with notes and sketches of changes in the garden this year!
      Enjoy your Easter visitor, Vicky! I promise to write very soon! Sending much love.💗

  6. Dawn, you paid a lovely homage to your beautiful trees! Do you still have your copy of “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein? Loved your post!

    • Thank you so much for visiting today, Kim! I have actually thought about The Giving Tree several times recently! My copy, a special gift from you and the kids, is on my bookshelf of favorite children’s literature. John even mentioned it the other day! Come visit for a walk in the garden soon. Everything looks so different now. I’m just not accustomed to seeing so much sky! I will miss our beautiful pines forever. Let’s plan a walk in the park!
      Wishing you all a lovely Easter! Huge hugs!💗

    • Thank you so much for stopping to visit today, Jo! I know you understand. Progress comes with lasting benefits and losses. Many, many healthy trees were removed from the lot next door to make room to build. I truly hope that there will be enough green space around the new house. Jo, I am so glad that I went outside to check on everything. I will always cherish the gift of that huge heart from our pines!
      Hope you are well and looking forward to Springtime in your garden, Jo. I was looking at our photos from the last big tea party gathering. (The world was so different then.) We have a new book to look forward to very soon! Can’t wait! Wishing you a very Happy Easter, Jo! 💗

  7. When faced with a situation that is inevitable, it’s best to look for the silver lining in it. You have done that in spades. I love the heart shape of the trunk. Hope you got a slice of the heart of that beautiful tree. I’ve had to take down several over the years and it always hurts my heart but in the end, it was so very necessary. I always planted 3 for every one that had to come down. Change is hard. They were building McMansions in our Burbank neighborhoods too. So hard to see the cute little houses go but most people don’t live that way anymore with all our electrical appliances, bigger cars, and electronic devices. The new homes have to fit the lifestyle. Of course, then we go back to square one at the end of life and live in simple small places. It will be nice to see what you plant. As long as you have the memories, all is well.

    • Marlene, it’s so nice to hear from you! Thank you for the beautiful words of wisdom. I love that you planted three trees for each tree that had to come down!💕 I am actually planning to plant three, small, flowering trees in memory of my mom, and both of my brothers. I am still deciding on the perfect place.
      It will be fascinating to watch the new house being built. Perhaps it will be ready by December. I’m curious to see if the new three-car garage will have electric charging stations for the cars? You are so right about new homes fitting today’s lifestyles, Marlene!
      I look forward to hearing more about your new home as you settle in. Just take your time unpacking and decorating, my friend! Soon you will have time for a new sewing project. Your special, creative touches will make it feel like home! Take extra-good care, Marlene! Huge hugs!💗

  8. Removing trees for a gardener is a tough decision. I applaud you doing it to assist your neighbor and the future health of the trees. Our neighbor has two scraggily looking pines with only branches at the top one third. A few years back she told me she was taking them out so I redid the beds underneath. The trees are still sitting there. Nature + Neighbors always brings interesting issues. Your rhodie story warms the heart that is for sure, and the photo of your Mom is perfect. I hope you find the perfect option for your heart because without a doubt that is one special gift from your pines. Enjoy your new sun garden space.

    • So very true, Judy! Nature + Neighbors must find a way to coexist, especially in a suburban neighborhood. A few weeks ago, as they dug the huge, new basement, we could see just how far the tree roots extended across the property next door! Our neighborhood was once farmland before being divided into individual lots in 1920. I will be very mindful of the mature height and width of the trees I plant, and where they are planted here!
      Judy, you were so wise to thoughtfully redo your flower beds beneath the pines. I learned in December that the property was definitely scheduled for tear-down. So, I tried to rescue a few of the mature shade perennials on that winter day. I quickly tucked them into other flower beds. Of course, I didn’t make note of these spur-of-the-moment gardening decisions, so now on my daily walk through the garden, I am waiting to see where they appear! 🌱I just discovered Pulmonaria in bloom along my white picket fence.😊 I think I can see the Hosta ‘Royal Standard’ emerging, too! (They have been living here longer than I have!) I am excited to make some new changes to my garden. I must be mindful of how hard I worked for several years to ‘right-size’ my perennial beds. That was such a wise decision, for which I am very grateful! Oh, what fun it will be to make some new garden plans!! Please continue to share your words of wisdom and Master Gardener expertise across the miles between our gardens, dear friend! I truly value your thoughts. Our gardens bring us so much joy each day!
      Wishing you and your family a lovely Easter, Judy!💗

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