Sunday, February 21, 2016

Collapse of a Lovestead Icon

Photo by Annie Love

Dr. Richard Benjamin of New York City,  who spent several months in North Idaho researching a book, joined our society a few years ago. 

Jacob and Grace of the family triplets have renewed their membership in the Lodgepole Society several times. 

State Senator extraordinaire Shawn Keough belongs to the Lodgepole Society. 

Bill was about to send out notices for collection of dues.  Then, the God Tree fell down. 

Oh, what a fall there had to be when that massive tree with a huge split----allowing two giant trunks to lean north and south----hit the ground in our far pasture.

In retrospect, we think we heard its final good bye late Friday afternoon.  We were in the house.  A loud boom like no other got our attention.  

I commented that it couldn't be the blasting up at Schweitzer because they do that in the morning, so the sound remained a mystery at the time. 

Bill had told me just a few days ago that he was sure the giant, unique lodgepole would be falling down, sooner rather than later.  

I remember the next day comparing the still live tree with the photo above, taken by our daughter Annie the winter we first moved to the Lovestead in 2006. 

It was stunning to see how far those trunks had veered off from each other during the past decade.

When we first walked the twenty-acre farm here in Selle one spring evening ten years ago and crawled through the fence from the woods into the far pasture, I took one look at that tree, standing tall and proud in the center of then, an open area and announced, "I'd buy the place for that tree alone.

Later, when we moved to the new home which I would eventually coin "the Lovestead," I walked to the pasture one beautiful July morning, admired the tree and said, "Thank you, God, for allowing us to have this place." 

I told Bill about the moment, adding that I was going to call the magnificent Lodgepole, the "God Tree." 

He later added to the mix, as only a forester filled with faith in the forest and God could. A yellow waterproof field notes book, a brief introduction about the unique tree and the proclamation suggesting that whoever stood beneath this unique specimen could be a member of the Lodgepole Society. 

A tradition was born.  Soon a cedar box to protect the yellow book would be placed on a stand beneath the tree. 

And, since then, countless visitors to our place have been ushered through the beautiful woods and into the Lodgepole pasture, which also serves as a resting place for some of our beloved pets. 

Each trip taken along forest pathways or across our rolling green fields to the Lodgepole, with friends and family spanning the globe, has been beyond special.  In many cases, moments spent beneath the tree have been emotional, touching, inspiring and unforgettable. 

We cherish every single experience of going through the Lodgepole induction ceremony.  

We have also been overcome at times that inductees have left money, photos and items of great meaning to go inside the logbook container, which happily was not damaged when the great tree came down. 

Our discovery of the tree's collapse came yesterday morning after I had finished my barn chores and decided to take a walk down the lane.  Bill was in another part of the woods working with his chain saw.  Dogs were in the house as they must be any time we go to the woods these days.  Our pups always enjoyed Lodgepole Society inductions as much as we, but sadly that has changed. 

As I walked toward the hay field, I immediately noticed that the two trunks were not visible above the other trees as they had been every day since our move here.  About halfway through the hay field, I could see the giant trunks on the ground. 

Then, I worried. 

Had Bill gone out there? I could not hear the chain saw, so with each step closer to the tree, I hoped that he was in another part of the woods. 

Once at the tree, I yelled.  He answered.

"Get over here," I shouted. 

We both surveyed the scene and reminisced a bit.  Bill told me he had intended to bring his camera out to take a photo before the tree went down. 

Well, the tree had other ideas. 

Part of our conversation dealt with how much wood there was going to be in a year or two.

"This will keep you and your chainsaw busy for a couple of years," I suggested.

We will do something with a part of the tree to serve as a monument, and we intend to continue a slightly modified Lodgepole Society. 

Ironically, the last people to join the society came up from Moscow to look at our bird out of place, the Brown thrasher.  Two the three family members were foresters with PhD's.

Seems pretty fitting, as does the column below, which I wrote a few years back.

Thanks to all who have contributed to our wonderful tradition inspired by that magnificent tree.  

RIP:  Pinus Contorta

P.S. We've decided to postpone sending out notices for your 2016 dues, so you're off the hook.  Instead, simply go hug a beautiful tree, and thank God.   

The God Tree and Its Lodgepole Society,

by Marianne Love

for The River Journal

December, 2008

Bill and I started a tradition shortly after moving to our Selle Lovestead in 2006.   Our ritual focuses on a large, unique, double-forked Lodgepole pine tree situated in an open space in our far pasture. 
I call this magnificent monument of wood and greenery  “The God Tree.”
Bill calls our tradition the “Lodgepole Society.”  He bought a yellow, waterproof field-notes book to use as the official log for society induction and membership.  He also built a wooden stand just in front of the tree and topped it with a box where the book and occasional mementos given by inductees reside within.
Nearly every time visitors come to the Lovestead for the first time, if it’s convenient,  we invite them to join the Society.  The ceremony involves walking or riding in the 4-wheeler through the woods and across fields as part of our farm’s grand tour. 
We point out the series of lush horse pastures, Bill’s thinning, marking and tree-planting projects in his first-ever forest, the bridge Bill constructed across a swale near our Western border, the “Black Forest,” as one visitor termed it, and the graves within the Lodgepole pasture where beloved pets lie for eternity.
Once at the tree, Bill, the forester, reads the official introduction to induction to the Society.
“Membership into ‘The Lodgepole Society,’ with all privileges therein, is hereby granted to all who stand underneath this unique Lodgepole Pine (Pinus Contorta).  Enjoy your visit and marvel at this truly unique specimen.  Marianne and Bill Love, C.F., Stewards of the Lodgepole. July 1, 2006.”
If I happen to be there, I often read the first entry:  July 2, 2006:  A warm Sunday morning.  We spent the first night in our new home, most of us anyway. I behold this giant tree, and simply say, ‘Thank you, God, for providing us this beautiful spot to live for the rest of our lives.  From this day forth, this is the ‘God’ Tree.”
We look upon the Lodgepole pasture as a sanctuary of serenity, beauty, and reverence.  The tree itself inspires faith, appreciation for life and the best spirits within ourselves and within the people visiting.  To me, it also serves as a year-long Christmas tree because its presence and splendor embodies so much of what we feel is important on this earth.
We started using the second logbook a couple of months ago, after the first volume was filled with poignant reminders and cherished memories. Sometimes inductees simply sign their names. A few have left humorous comments. Sometimes the entries reflect emotions straight from the heart.
As my personal message for the upcoming Christmas season, I’d like to share a few thoughts from our first Lodgepole log book.

“How closer to God and thee lie. . . the place and soul filling.”  Cis and Ken Gors, July, 2006.
“May this God Tree continue to stand as a sentinel over the Lovestead for years to come!  Love, Margaret” (Cowen of Sacramento, Bill’s twin, September, 2006)
“It was Grace’s first day of school and my first visit to the Lovestead.  Can a day get any better?  What a beautiful place, especially the God Tree!  Thanks for sharing.  Jenny Jacobson Meyer, 9/07/06.
 “Thank you, Marianne, for the tour. The Lovestead is exquisite, and the tree is a worthy centerpiece.  Enjoy!  Mindy” (Cameron), March 29, 2007.
“Earth Day, 2007, April 22.  What a perfect activity for this special day! We are glad that this special property is under your stewardship.”  Skip and Helen Newton
“Dear Lodgepole, please don’t reproduce!” Chris Schneff, June 8, 2007.
“This place is peace on earth . . . I even slept with the dog, Kiwi.” Patti Skelton McGougan, June 10, 2007.
“Marianne and Bill, thank you for such a memorable day in Bonner County!  Between the Fair and your amazing home, I had a fantastic time. Keep up with the handsome horses and the books!”  Rich Benjamin, New York City, Aug. 22, 2007.
“Wonders of nature in the backyard.  It’s all most of us can hope for.  Thanks for sharing.”  Sarah Aavedal, 12/16/07.
“We left a tip for Marianne, our tour guide.  What a special place this is! It truly is a ‘God Tree,’ and we are so glad you both get to be the caretakers for the rest of us so we can all enjoy it.” Becky Reynolds, May 12, 2008
“This is a grate [sic] tree.”  [Who else but] Boots Reynolds, May 12, 2008
“Our inaugural visit to the God Tree and the return of a gift to a friend.  We are so blessed.” Angela and Cameron Miller. Linda Warren (Grammy), June 12, 2008.
“I love this beautiful place.  Jimmy is here with us today.  Thank you.” Beth Bruce, July 25, 2008.
“Thank you so much for sharing this with us. We bring Jimmy with us.” Heather Brown.” July 25, 2008.
“Thank you for sharing all your beauty.” Ann and Ed Kritzeck, July 27, 2008.
After Ann and Ed’s visit, Bill placed Volume II of the Lodgepole log in the box.  Their visit, however, prompted some unsettling moments under the God Tree.
I had just begun to tell Ann about the guardian angel medallion left with the log book  a few weeks before by Angela Warren Miller.  Upon opening the box, I sorted through the items left by visitors, including a photo, some dollar bills and a couple of coins. 
The small, silver medallion was missing!  I was dumbfounded and unable to utter a lucid thought to my guest.
Jenny Jacobson Meyer had given that medallion to Angela after their high school graduation in 1992. Angela had carried it with her all those years, including to Jenny’s funeral in June, where she held it in her hand.   She had initially planned to leave it with Jenny but decided the guardian angel would be more appropriate at the God Tree, which her dear friend had visited on a special milestone during her eight-year battle with cancer.
The precious medallion was gone.  So much for stewardship, I thought.
For three days afterward, I returned to the tree, got down on my hands and knees and carefully worked my fingers through the weeds, twigs, dirt and tall grass around its base.  I even took the metal detector a couple of times but to no avail.
I could hardly sleep at night, consumed with desperation about losing something so meaningful.  Some day I would have to tell Angela, but I still clung to the hope that it may reappear.
On the fourth day, I again took the metal detector.  Holding it over a mound of dirt created by a gopher days before, I heard the most welcome “Beep.”  Throwing the tool aside, I knelt down and carefully lifted cupfuls of dirt from the mound.
  Suddenly, something shiny, something silver appeared. The missing medallion!  I rubbed off the dirt, jumped for joy beneath the God tree and ran to the house to prepare a special container for the medallion so it could not disappear again.
I don’t know why or how that medallion disappeared. I also don’t know why I couldn’t find it in the same pile of dirt, I had sifted through each preceding day.  My only thought is that the guardian angel medallion had work to do elsewhere. When the work was done, the keepsake of faith miraculously reappeared.
God works in wondrous ways, as do the magnificent trees that only He can create.  Merry Christmas to all, especially to the members of the Lodgepole Society who have brought us so much joy.

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