Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Monday, September 7, 2009


About 5 years ago, the 50 year old Modesto Ash tree in our front yard met it's match with a wind storm that blew through town. More than ironically, I had been standing in the front yard not 10 minutes before with the lady from the Sacramento Tree Foundation, talking about that tree. It was oddly shaped from having become codependent on a nearby Canary Palm that had recently moved to live at a resort in the desert (and that is a story for another day. Honestly, I don't make this stuff up).

As the tree lady and I went to the back yard to look at the trees there, the Ash tree succumbed to the blustery day, nearly half of it splitting off and crashing to the ground in the exact place that we had been standing. Strangely, miraculously, blessedly, the branch that was squarely aimed at our house missed, where only 3 feet away from the window, baby Ellie lay sleeping. When we returned to the front yard, we found it laying at a 90 degree angle to the direction it had been leaning. I told anyone who would listen that God reached down and pushed it aside with his mighty finger. The branch twisted and flipped, laying itself across our lawn and trailing all the way to our neighbors front porch.

We were unbelievably blessed that day.

We kept the remaining tree, thinking that we might somehow save the old fellow. A few years passed, when one day my husband noticed a terrible split running the length of another large branch. It was too much. Too dangerous. The tree needed to be "put down".

I was so sad to loose my tree. Trees are not like people to me, they are people. They have a magical life to them that I love. They whisper in the fall, and make every afternoon breeze into a ticker tape parade. In winter they carve the grey sky with black, reaching limbs, and bring glorious relief as they announce the coming of spring on budded branches. Generously, they dapple the grass with delicious shade in the summer. They may actually have fairies in them, I think.

I was sad, but I knew it had to be done.
Our wonderful 70-something friends, Dan Mealy and Gerald Corbett, came to help us bring down my dear tree. A long while of negotiating angles and ropes resulted in a very brief but very nerve wracking and thrilling 30 seconds as the tree came down. They made some well placed cuts and tied the tree to the bumper of an old Ford and with the gunning of the engine, down it came.

I was too sad to think of my good old tree being burned in a temporary blaze of less-than-glory as firewood, so I put an add on craigslist for an artist to come and save my tree. I wanted to give it another life, an new chance to continue on. I also wanted to support an artist and give them materials, sometimes hard to come by when you are broke and making art.

A kind young man named Chris contacted me and came out with his chainsaw to take my tree trunk home with him. When he arrived, he pointed out a meandering black line in the trunk's interior wood. It was damage from the rotting tree that had creeped down deep into the wood. "Oh, no, does this mean you can't use it?" I asked. "Oh, no." he said, and then he explained that this was coveted in woodworking. The black line would leave a beautiful and unique design in the finished pieces.

Off he went with a promise that in a year or so, after the wood had cured, he would send me a photo of the finished work. I was hopeful, but thought I might never see what my tree had become. After all, people get busy and forget. I was just glad to see it going home with an artist.

True to his word, a year and some months later, Chris emailed. He wanted me to see the bowls my tree had become. He invited me to a show to pick one of the bowls to keep. I was beyond thrilled.

It took me a while to get my act together with all that has transpired here lately, but this weekend Ethan and I went out on a date. We drove to Roseville and met Chris and his beautiful wife at their booth at the Fountains. We saw their lovely work ( , his woodwork and her glass work and pottery, and enjoyed a lovely visit. He let me choose a bowl, and his wife pointed me towards one I had already had my eye on. The black damage that had spelled the end for my tree had indeed become, at the hand of a skilled artisan, beautiful designs on the side of the lovely bowl.
Isn't it wonderful that a flaw can become a strength? Isn't it amazing what a master can do with raw, imperfect, damaged material? Isn't it wonderful?

I made a meal for my family yesterday, and my son hurried to get the bowl for a beautiful salad. The bowl made the common elements of the salad look elegant and vibrant.
I am grateful that my tree was not really lost.

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. Ether 12:27"


Jackie said...

Ah,, I love it Laine! Very good thought, and neat story. I too love my trees and they are all going going gone. Maybe with this last one, I will put an add on Craigs list.

Thanks for sharing!

rebekahmott said...

Can I just say that is way way cool. I would have never tought to give a fallen down tree to someone. I love that.

Stephanie said...

That is so awesome! Cant wait to see the bowl!