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Whidbey Island Landscapes

that celebrate the unique history, ecology and character of our island home.

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Christmas Wreath, 2015

We gathered greens for wreaths the weekend before Thanksgiving.  It was especially important to do it early this year as our daughter Amie and family were due to go out of town the week before Christmas and I like to send a bit of home to her in Utah.  We loaded the tractor bucket with pruners, hand saw and loppers and came back with grand fir, spruce,  salal,  evergreen huckleberry and red huckleberry – all from our own five acres.  We also cut some branches of our ailing corkscrew willow.  I keep saying I’m going to take it out since it’s so unsightly most of the year, but at wreath-making time I relent since the yellow twisting branches are fabulous for accent.   I also love the red huckleberry because the new buds remind me of tiny red Christmas bulbs and the chartreuse stems are a nice contrast to the dark conifer greens.  Thanks to a fierce storm earlier that week we were able to pick up fallen limbs of Douglas fir that I use as the base material and the lichen covered alder branches I covet for accent all along our little dirt road.   The deer also did me a favor and thrashed the bottom of the neighbor’s giant sequoia into just the right sized branchlets.

Amie's wreath.

Amie’s wreath.

Amie got her wreath in enough time to enjoy it and Alison, our younger daughter who lives closer made two wreaths.  But my own wreath just sat on a list of to-dos the whole month of December, and the wreath-making machine glared at me every time I went out the laundry room door.  I finally set aside some time Christmas Eve day.  I was a bit dismayed to find that the greens I had efficiently cut into smaller branchlets and stored in the garage a month ago had dried out.  So had the promising garrya with the silvery tassels.  But I still had some very large branches left and the cuttings from those were nice and fresh.  Good to know.


IMG_5387 IMG_5307

As I worked, part of me wondered if I should put my feet up for a long winter’s nap instead.  The scent of those greens however took me back to a favorite memory.  Every year – together –  my too-busy, bickering  parents decorated the outside windows and doors of our house with C-9 lights and greens. To gather material, they tromped into the forest that surrounded our house and left me at home in charge of my younger sister and brother.  The “woods” where we and our neighborhood friends built forts, damned creeks and picked berries seemed a kids-only kind of place so their going there was temporarily confusing to me – as if they wouldn’t be able to find the magic door.  An hour or so later they would come back, red-cheeked and laughing.  Mom would make a thermos of coffee and they would spend the next few hours – together – somehow attaching those greens to a brick house.  Not without a few choice words from my father.  Santa always brought an embarrassment of riches to my brother and sister and I.  But one of the sweetest gifts is this memory reopened every year by the scent of Christmas greens.



Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

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The Wind of my Soul

The first winter after we moved to the island, I spent several days in the hospital with no end in sight.  I was glad to have a private room and especially a window, until I realized that the window faced a brick wall.  (I realize now I could have asked to be bundled up and taken outside for a breath of fresh air now and then, but I was new to this hospital gig.  I’ve also learned that usually there are popsicles in the freezer.)  Each day found me more and more depressed, until one day a crow landed on the sill outside and the wind ruffled its feathers.  I almost cried with relief.

Today was my second day at yoga, ever.  I’ve been given permission to keep my eyes open when I’m learning something new.  But I find I cannot close them even after I know what to do.  The view out the large windows is so soothing and hypnotic.  I know I’m supposed to go inward, but it feels as if part of my soul is perched outside.  There was a beautiful poem to start today’s class.  I wonder if its okay to cry at yoga?

When I Am Among the Trees, by Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”




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Plant Memories

We’ve had a lot of life events in our family this past year – wedding, death and a new baby on the way.   I like to mark occasions with the planting of a tree.  Much of the beauty of a garden is short-lived, but most trees live a long life given proper planting and care and it’s nice  to think that someday (quite a few years from now) when we’re gone, my children and grandchildren could walk down our road and say, “Look, there’s the tree that was planted for me.”

Two years ago, we planted a Liriodendron tulipifera / Tulip Tree to honor the marriage of our daughter A. and son-in-law, T.  A loves all kinds of magnolias and their relatives and they had a huge Liriodendron in their backyard in Brooklyn,  NY.  They lived on the third floor of a brownstone so they could see into the blooms at the top of the tree that most often go unnoticed from down below.

Liriodendron tulipifera

Another daughter, another A. married son-in-law S. this July.  This past weekend we planted Quercus robur / English oak in their honor.  Unbeknownst to each other, they both spent time in England as young adults, at the same time!  Both were English majors and have interests in British history and poetry.  S. requested that the tree be big enough to hold a swing for children or grandchildren.  I don’t know that I can deliver on that one – I planted the biggest specimen I thought would survive and flourish in our landscape.  For a now, we’ll just have to build a swing next to the tree.

Quercus robur

We said good-bye to our beloved golden retriever, Bunter this summer.  In remembrance of her, we planted Cornus ‘Starlight’ / dogwood in the corner of our property where she liked to chase rabbits.    ‘Starlight’ is a cross between our native dogwood, Cornus nutallii and Cornus kousa, noted for high resistance to the diseases powdery mildew and anthracnose.  Next year there will be white summer flowers, showy fruit and fall color.

Cornus 'Starlight'

We’re looking forward to the birth of our first grandchild, a boy at the end of the year.  I’ll think about what to plant for him while I’m out watering the trees. . . .

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Sometimes less is more

Last weekend we saw Book-it Theater’s production of Sense and Sensibility.  All of the productions we have seen there have been excellent – Jane Eyre, Cider House Rules.  The hallmark of their style of theater is that the play comes from a book and the narrative is spoken as dialogue by the characters in the production.  It’s an unusual technique, but one that makes the experience all the richer.  Another hallmark of their plays, at least the ones I have attended is the spare set – a window here, a curtain there, a few essential props.  This focuses your attention on the characters and the story.

We had some time before the play to wander the Seattle Center grounds.  Here’s a beautiful old locust.  (Notice the crutches.) With just the lawn under it, you appreciate the trunk and interesting branch silhouette. 

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