One of my favorite pastimes in the spring, summer and early fall is to sit on my small second-story porch of my house in the York neighborhood and watch people walk by the massive maple tree in my front yard.
Although not everybody pauses under its enormous branches, enough do that I’ve come to realize the very old, very tall tree is something special.
With branches that seem to tickle the sky, a trunk that would take at least seven or eight humans with arms outstretched to circle and a welcoming crotch that has been home to many (uninvited) after-hours college parties, the leafy behemoth is indeed worth stopping for.
One of the joys of living in a house that’s been around since 1900 is I can dream about who planted the marvelous maple. Was it a family just starting out, a widow who dug a hole and placed the tree in it in honor of her late husband, or a young bachelor who wanted to put down roots in the place he now called home?
I’ll never know, but I am thankful for whoever decided to beautify the landscape and provide a tree that not only shades and cools my house in the summer, but also provides habitat for birds, bugs, squirrels and the occasional housecat.
While I’ll never build a tree house in it—rumor has it there used to be one, but some kid broke his arm after falling from it and the structure had to be taken down—I have entertained the idea of taking a sleeping bag up there and spending the night in its sturdy embrace.
I’m not the only one in this city who’s in love with trees. At a free Bellingham Arbor Day celebration happening Sept. 29 at Elizabeth Park, the branches, bark and leaves will be the stars of the show.
In addition to guided walks focusing on the park’s many storied trees with City of Bellingham arborist James Luce and local expert John Wesselink, the event will also feature an Arbor Day proclamation by Mayor Kelli Linville, tree climbing for kids led by professionals, hands-on educational activities and information about tree planting, local parks and much more. Arborists will also be on hand to answer questions community members might have.
If I want more information about the specimen in my front yard, I may bring photos of it and ask them if they can tell me anything about it. For example: Is it as old as the house? Is it a Norway maple or a sugar maple? How long can it live? Why do so many people stop under its branches and gaze longingly upward? I don’t need all the answers, but I remain curious.
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