(Note: the original of this little story appeared on orionmagazine.org in The Place Where You Live.–jrs)
The road I live on in Southwest Portland follows a path of least resistance. In the afternoon, as you wind up the hill, the sun may be to your right. The next time it appears through the trees, it might be on your left. The moon behaves in the same odd way. People from other parts of town say: “I can’t figure this out. I get so turned around.” This is a natural thing, of course, because they really are getting turned around.
The deck on our house faces north. When we first settled in, we could see Mt. Saint Helens’ broken hump. We could also see the horizon climb toward Mt. Hood, but the actual mountain, in all its white glory, was hidden behind a stand of tall fir. Today, all of the trees have grown up and we’re even in danger of losing our view of Polaris, where the stars wheel around in a sparkling mandala. Damn trees.
But trees are also the identifying character of Lancaster Road. Living with us they seem to offer both protection and danger. I’m sure we offer the same to them. My neighbors are very tree-centric, as are we, but when any tree decides to loom and menace a structure, nobody hesitates. That tree becomes firewood, to rest in a linear pile for a season or two before giving up it’s stored energy to warm the house in a dark wet winter. We don’t really have a front yard. It has become a wood lot. I call it practical landscaping. I’m not sure my neighbors do.
Sitting on the deck during an easy summer afternoon is like being in the treehouse of childhood fables. We look down the hill and marvel at a hundred shades of green and understand the blessing of it. Being human though, I wish we could still see Mt. Saint Helens. The mountain sees the forest, while we see the trees. There’s an adage in there somewhere.
(before: komar.org; after: mountsthelens.com)