Rooted in Puget Sound: Our Winners Share How Trees Inspire

How do you connect with trees?

A seemingly simple question inspired people across the state to share through our Rooted in Puget Sound contest.

From photos to paintings to poems, submissions celebrated the diverse ways that trees inspire us - highlighting the love of specific trees, memories that trees elicit, the benefits that trees provide to people and nature and the beauty within individual trees.

Thank you for being part of Rooted in Puget Sound and highlighting the way trees show up in your life. We are excited to announce our winners!

Grand Prize

“Redcedar Bark” by Anthony Marquez

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“As a kid, my grandpa often took me to Mt. Rainier to see the ancient Redcedars and Douglas firs. I remember seeing these monstrous, towering trunks that were a thousand years old, wondering how something so spectacular even existed.

I went on to study trees in fact, getting a degree in horticulture because of that love for green and growing things.

One might think that understanding the intricacies of how these incredible organisms work might diminish the sense of amazement they inspire, but I've found quite the opposite - that it's only expanded my wonder when I'm faced with the splendor and majesty of the towering evergreens of Puget Sound.

When I'm painting, I find the subtle mingling of watercolor hues on paper echoes the interconnectedness of nature; bacteria, fungi, flora, fauna. They all come together to create a vibrant picture that's full of life.

Combining my love for trees and painting is a passion, and I'm honored I got this chance to share.”

Best Photo

“Lungs of the City,” by Pat Labitoria

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Trees are the lungs of the city. They absorb pollution and provide us with cleaner air.

They are natural air conditioners that lowers the temperature when it becomes too hot.

They are art work in a sea of concrete, making cities beautiful with their simple and quiet existence. They relax our stressed minds by just being there.

No city is complete without its trees. A tree a day makes the whole day a lot more better.

Best Art

“My Connection to Trees,” by Barbara Bernard

Those who know me, understand my connection to the trees in the Pacific Northwest. I feel calmer and more centered when among moss and ferns.... I love seeing woodland critters scamper about and hearing birds whistling their sweet calls.

Being near the Puget Sound, the blue green waves gently lapping along the shore, knowing the water is filled with sea creatures that play hide and seek under the rocks and driftwood. We need to be gentle with the environment... we need to protect and prevent further deterioration.

Best Writing

“My Friend, Big Tree” by Katha Miller-Winder

In the heart of Kitsap County lives my friend. Most people know him as the Big Tree. He lives on the bank of Lost Creek on Keta Legacy Foundation (formerly Mountaineers Foundation)'s Rhododendron Preserve. He's the second largest Douglas fir tree in Kitsap County and the only one that is accessible to the public.

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My friend is more than 800 years old. He isn't as tall as other Douglas fir trees his age because long ago he was struck by lightening and his crown was damaged. But my friend is fortunate. Because he lives on the banks of a salmon stream, a stream in a watershed that hosts the largest Chum Salmon run in Kitsap County, my friend has water even in the dry season. He also has a wealth of fish fertilizer filled with nutrients unavailable to trees that don't grown near salmon streams. The salmon bring back ocean nutrients when they return to spawn and die.

My friend bears the scars of wildfire on his bark. Other trees around him lost their lives when the fire came, but his thick bark, proximity to water, and overall health meant he survived. There are many other-old growth trees around my friend, but none so old or so big as he. He lives amidst giant bigleaf maples and centuries-old western red cedars. And there are many other Douglas firs nearby as well.

Together with the other trees my friend is the lungs of our ecosystem, breathing in carbon dioxide and the pollutants in the air and breathing out pure oxygen. The air around my tree smells better than any other air. And whenever I am feeling tired and worn, or feeling sad and stressed, I go to visit my friend. I lean against his rough craggy bark and stretch my arms as far as I can and hug my friend. I feel his endurance, the depth of his roots, his strength, and his quiet joy. I leave these visits feeling refreshed and restored. I love my friend.

Best Video

“Aging Willow” by Sally James

This aging willow lies at the wetland intersection between the Center for Urban Horticulture land and the Montlake Cut water. I spent time inside the tree, trying to make a video that would impress on viewers the magnificence of the willow but also how special it is to be up close and INSIDE a tree. For me, trees have been a big part of my life always and forever as refuges and places to experience the wild.

Honorable Mentions

“Alaska Yellow Cedar” by Barbara Johnstone

Like a bird, I sought cover in dense greenery.
On the path below the path,
I slipped through branches and curled
on a rock by the tree.  Green sprays
drooped over and sheltered me.
The truth of what was done to me as a girl—
naming it burned my base,
hollowing me. 
I held on to the cedar’s trunk,
torn and peeling. 
I breathed. 
I told my truth to another living being.
Whitish-green berries pooled like tears
on leaf tips.
Lower branches bent down to the ground.
They reached—and reached--
then lifted to the light.                                  
My refuge for three years, this tree.
We grew roots together 
that interlaced with oak                                                                                               
and cherry trees on the path above.

“Shady Green” by Debra Rexroat

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This is one of the many bends in the infamous Green River at Flaming Geyser SP in Washington State.  The Green River is an important home to salmon and an important river in the Central Cascades, watershed, in which the rich and varied tree canopy act as shade, a filter, and nutrient monitor for the health of Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean.  I was especially drawn to the play of light and shadow at this bend in the river, where the afternoon sunlight skimmed the treetops and highlighted the rocky bed of the river, and the trees' shade gave it its mystery. 

“The Importance of Trees” by Jib Lunoc Ninal

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 I'm so happy to be an International Volunteer in Earthcorps here in Seattle, where we work to ensure that people and nature can thrive together.

So what are the importance of trees to us?

Trees are important to the environment, trees can help clean the air we breath, filter the water that we drink, provide habitat, absorb harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.


Trees in the background "Tsuga heterophylla, the western hemlock or western hemlock-spruce, is a species of hemlock native to the west coast of North America, with its northwestern limit on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, and its southeastern limit in northern Sonoma County, California.

“Western Hemlock” by Melissa Kalles

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This is a western hemlock growing from an old stump. As I walked through my city park and saw this, it spoke to me as life continuing forward. That nature wants to survive. That we must persevere and keep fighting for our trees, because the death of something isn't the end.

Thank you to the sponsors of the Rooted in Puget Sound campaign, including the Boeing Company, Bounty Kitchen, Tom Douglas Restaurants, PCC Market – Fremont, Sunnyside Nursery and Swansons Nursery.

Interested in engaging with trees in your community? Check out the Planting Trees for Thriving Communities homepage for information about the benefits of trees and upcoming volunteer opportunities.