Not in Kansas Anymore
Back in August, it was as normal as any other August in Arlington, until the amazing gusts of the Derecho Storm whipped their way through the cherry-tree lined avenues. We had a native cherry tree in our back yard that was teetering on the edge of the fence line, and I watched it out the window that was getting sucked in and out, as the locomotive sound of the winds swooshed and churned through the neighborhood. Please don’t come through the window, I thought. Don’t land on a neighbor. Wicked Witch of the West music played in my mind…
It uprooted, but thankfully didn’t fly across the neighborhood, like so many other trees and their weak limbs did. Ultimately, we ended up paying a pretty penny to have the gnarly, wild cherry tree, which was sick, cut out and stump ground out to prevent termites, but jeez! Who knew the business of tree-work was the song and dance that it was?! I started to wonder what else could be done with so many of these trees that had also come down in the wake of the impending storms of the year.
You wouldn’t believe how many solicitors come to our new house about tree work. They show up like right before meals- like they have this sixth sense for people’s rears about to hit seats for dinner. Imagine a lovely steaming dinner that has just been plated. The family is about to be gathered together to sit and relax together for the first time all day… DOOR BELL. DOG BARK. TREE PERSON TRUCK. No thanks. Thank goodness it wasn’t a woman with a picnic basket on a bicycle.
Century old oaks, maples, poplars and cedars plummeted to their demise, uprooted by those gale-force winds, taking out power lines, cars and many homes in their timber paths. What now? What do you do with these once magnificent trees that are no longer going to be providing their shade and privacy? Glorified fire wood? No, there is another answer.
Yes, there is some clean up involved, but the trees didn’t just have to be hacked to pieces. In many instances, these trees played a vital roll in a life story; a family history or heritage. Sigh- nostalgia is about to happen: A child was reared under those branches, lovers carved their initials and impending promise to each other under a knot, a stubborn kitty climbed to the tippy-top and stayed there mewing for hours. Many of these trees tell our story, and when they topple down, they don’t have to go away, taking that story with them.
Revealing the True Story
Local artist, Marcus Sims of Treincarnation has taken his keen sense of sustainability, along with integrity for the product itself, the wood, and creates amazing, useful and soulful pieces of art and furniture from fallen trees.
Of course, over the last few months, with the sheer amount of tree damage the Washington, DC area has been the brunt of, he has seen an increase in business; however, Sims has been creating with “nature in mind” for over twenty years. When I asked him if he had noticed an increase in people seeking him out in the last few years, he said “yes, people want to have a piece of their beloved tree…to have it milled into lumber and made into something,” something tangible, and something that they can take with them if they happen to move.
His clients want anything from huge logs of oak honed into bookcases and trellises; his own headboard is a Houzz.com-worthy massive slab of maple. Sims’ designs work in conjunction with the client and the wood itself to “reveal and set off the beauty of the wood.” It makes me think that he is allowing the wood to tell that story of each moment that it towered over before it came down.
The Man Behind the Curtain
Maybe he is sort of like the Great and Powerful Oz. Sims doesn’t really know what he is going to get to make magic out of until he gets his whole tree to play with! For instance, he was commissioned to make square benches for the Janney school out of the Janney Oak when they were going to do their major expansion in DC.
“Only when the logs were brought to me, and I could see the wind-shake on the inside (the separation on the tube of the tree) could I see that I would have to do something different. My colleague, Cecil Smith, suggested that we separate the inner column from the outer wood, and use the ‘halftubes’ to create the benches.” These pieces of Janney history now sit on the Janney School’s elementary playground and continue to be a part of the school’s rich history, but in a much more elegant way than being hacked into firewood.
Yes, trees can be milled to lumber for floors and siding and actual lumber for construction, but there are some trees that people may want to make into something a bit more special like their “beloved [enter tree name here].” As we are catching full stride into the new year, we can only hope that no more insane storms bring their wrath; but if there is anything we have learned, it is that there are options to do things more sustainably and people like our artist friends who think with nature in mind.