WHEN WE ERECTED WEE NOOKE (nee the Wendy House) on our rocky knoll in the summer of 2004, we put it in a nice spot beneath a pretty lodge-pole pine tree. It was the only pine on our half-acre, which has lots of Douglas firs, a handful of pretty hemlocks, some willows and maples, a few cedars and two lonely madronas.The “before” picture: You can see the pine leaning over the rear corner of Wee Nooke, my writing hut on Center Island. Lower branches look bare, but plenty of healthy pine boughs remained up top.
The pine leaned slightly, just enough to give the 6-foot-square cedar shed a bit of summer shade and a little protection from winter rains or snow.
It wasn’t a very big tree then. But in the ensuing 14 years, it had grown much larger, even sprouting a secondary trunk. And a week or so ago it occurred to me that it was leaning more than before, and a little bit too much in a not-so-good direction.
It had gotten quite big — almost 50 feet tall. I hated the thought, but maybe I should have it taken down before it squashed my writing hut — my beloved Wee Nooke. Named for a country cottage that P.G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster once rented, it is one of the things in my new life that gives me great pleasure. I sit beneath sunny windows at a writing desk I built myself, listen to music from a pair of nice Polk Audio speakers I got for free at the Lopez Dump’s “Take It or Leave It” shop, and peck away at my keyboard — writing blog posts, newspaper and book assignments, correspondence with friends, etc. This winter, I might have a new mystery novel in me.
Last Friday, during a sun break after a night of heavy rain and some wind, Barbara and I took a walk around our island, and as we returned down the back path I spotted Wee Nooke — without the pine tree above it.
The “after” shot, looking from the back: In death, the double-trunked pine decided my writing hut should live.
Our night’s wind hadn’t seemed dramatic. I guess the combination of wind, lots of rain and just the accumulated top-heaviness had finally brought down the pine.
Some of the big branches missed Wee Nooke by not much more than my shoe size. Amazingly, the structure showed nary a scratch.
I felt overwhelmed with mixed emotions: Sadness at losing the lone pine that had been the centerpiece of our rocky knoll. Relief that it hadn’t mashed my writing hut like a mound of boiled Yukon Golds.
It meant a busy couple of days with my chainsaw. The spot on our Back 40 where I had just recently cleared away a giant mound of fallen tree limbs that had collected over several years is, once again, a giant mound of tree limbs. (Keeping this property tidy is like painting the Golden Gate Bridge; you finish in one direction and then start over from the other end. Sigh.)
Wee Nooke’s new look, with firewood stacked on the front porch.
The silver (and gold) linings: I don’t have to worry quite so much about running out of firewood. And I’ve been wanting to experiment with planting some quaking aspens here. They grow naturally on Lopez and Sucia islands, if not elsewhere in the San Juans, so I’d like to try planting some on our knoll, to enjoy the maraca-like serenade of their windblown leaves and the rich gold color they turn in autumn. Another adventure in island horticulture awaits.