Spruced Up

This summer we camped in a mix of Douglas fir and Sitka spruce. From our campsite we had a view of a huge old spruce which divided into four trunks about six feet from the ground. Sitka spruce only grow in the fog belt along the Northwest coast in what is sometimes called a temperate rain forest.

Curious to see how big it was, I waded through the salmon berry, sedge, and skunk cabbage to the base of this extraordinary tree. Under the moss and fallen branches bulged roots like green knees and thighs. The four trunks rose from a butt end that had circumference of 12 or 15 feet. My boyish mind immediately thought of the splendid tree-house it could host.

Sitka spruce are remarkable for their ability to make their own rain. We have had a remarkably dry summer along the coast, but water hung on the moss and sedge under branches of this spruce. The needles of the spruce capture the evening and morning coastal fog, dropping enough on the ground to make small puddles.

From the four beautiful trunks that curve skyward are smaller branches stretching horizontally into a canopy. The lower branches, deprived of sunlight, die but the wood is so strong that these dead branches hold on for years until the weight of fungus and moss brings them crashing down around the roots.

The tree not only waters itself; it makes it own compost from all debris it sheds. The result of this wonderful self-sufficiency is a wood that has an excellent strength to weight ratio. In WWI Sitka spruce was harvested extensively along the coast for the making of aircraft. Old growth spruce is still treasured for the excellent sound boards it makes for guitars, violins, and other stringed instruments.

  I watched this old spruce for five days. I listened to the wind in its branches and the slow dripping of water combed from the fog. I prayed for the spiritual maturity that in times of drought can make its own rain from the morning fog. I want the years and the things that have fallen away to nourish my roots as I my heart looks up.

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About Mark

I live in Myrtle Point, Oregon with my wife Teckla and am the father of four boys. Currently I teach writing and literature at Southwest Oregon Community College. I am a graduate of Myrtle Point High School, Northwest Nazarene College, and have a Masters in English from Washington State University.
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