TALL TREE LANE: The Thing that Made Me Leave.. by Susan Holland (aka Fellow Traveler)

  • Four miles up switchbacks from the tiny town of Hoodsport, on Washington’s Hood Canal, there’s a turnoff and then a strong pipe barrier to a trail head. My van just fit through the gap alongside that barrier. The lane was dirt and fir needles, stones, twigs, and cones. In a few hundred yards, a sharp right and a non-stop steep climb up a gravely lane that borders the creek gully.
From cabin porch a view of beloved firepit and beyond, the busy workshop, in new snow. Tarp deflecting drifts. Inset: “treen” (wood vessels) samples.
  • The cabin is made from the trees cleared to build it. It stands on pilings above the dirt. There is precious little insulation underneath, I happen to know. There’s a workshop a short walk away that I use for my wood art. Turn off the car and listen! No-sound. It is as quiet as Eden. A squirrel climbing, a bird landing, the towering evergreens whisking the sky with the breeze. The creek splashes its way through a deep ravine that flows under the driveway. A porch with sapling railings wraps around the cabin. Bricks with their coat of fir needles lead to the steps to go in. For a year my feet learned that place, inside and out. The softness of the forest floor and the flood of spring run-off from the mountainside. The mud. Intense darkness below with bright stars on clear nights. Inside, the kitchen floor had sloped down from some earlier settling, or termites. My room included the laundry and a little loft under a sloped ceiling. My bed fit in there, and a bookcase. It was a wondrous place with large windows on three sides and a skylight about six feet from the floor. I was sleeping in the forest! Cedars,salmon-berry and Rhodies grew just inches from my nose in that room. Then the magical, majestic, deep deep snow. An infected tooth — a fever. The car was stuck way down the hill. I hiked down, stabbing a stick along in front of me to find solid ground under the powder for trips to the doctor, the pharmacy, the post office, the store. And finally, the steep hike back up from where the car was stopped., carrying groceries, panting , stopping every three steps. I saw cougar tracks and tried to look big and tough. I was not big and tough. With alternating freeze, thaw, snow, limbs cracked and broke under the cascades of ice from the laden branches above. Then the wind, and a heavy limb from a tall Maple impaled the roof of my workshop shed, letting the weather into my tools and wood and supplies. That was it. My family came and packed up my tools, my wood, my paintings, my tables and bed and I left the dear sappy smells, the silence and the stars and they brought me home to the suburbs.
  • I will never lose the magic of that wonderful wild place.

Originally published at cowbird.com.