The Big Spruce Across the Road

Sunrise over spruces at The Nature Conservancy's Cranesville Swamp Preserve in northern West Virginia. Photo by Kent Mason.

Sunrise over spruces at The Nature Conservancy's Cranesville Swamp Preserve in northern West Virginia. Photo by Kent Mason.

by Kat Morgan, associate director for Puget Sound conservation

When you are small, your world is small too. I am reminded of this as I watch my own young-ones take deep interest in a snail’s trail across the sidewalk or the endless forts sites in our Boxwood hedges. My memories of a slightly expanding world are with my childhood friend Brian.

We decided we were going to climb every tree in our yards, and once that goal had been met, we’d go “across the road” to a dilapidated complex of what used to be family farms and was now owned by the local agricultural university. Some of the remnants of the farms included conglomerations of feral lilacs in the middle of a plowed field, or hedge-rows of heritage apple varietals. Brian and I decided we were going to conquer a tall spruce tree that must have sheltered a farmhouse or grazing livestock at some point in its history, but was now standing alone in the middle of a hayfield.

We strategized for weeks, or 15 minutes, about how we could reach the first branch, 12 or so feet high. We finally decided to prop a storm-dropped branch against the trunk, and we climbed the branch to the lowest of the tree’s stout branches. Once we had hauled ourselves up, we were free. We climbed to the very top of the tree, soaring up 30 feet above the fields and our houses, swaying in the breezes that we only seemed to feel when we reached the skinny branches.

We felt victorious. We felt deliciously lucky. This was now our place. No one else could figure out how to climb this tree (we had kicked away the branch, just to be sure).  We felt humbled at the view the tree owned, and at its strength in holding us up. We stayed there for hours, or 15 minutes. And somehow, when our sneakers touched back down on the grass below, covered in pitch and stuck through with spruce needles, our view of the world and our place in it had shifted a little, had expanded for Brian and me.

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