Down the street, there was a line of four youngish Douglas firs planted too close together for privacy in a side yard. An impatient owner probably planted these five feet apart in hopes of gaining privacy. But anything under 50 feet is too close and the tree on the end most likely died because its root system became entangled with the other trees and there wasn’t enough water to sustain them all.

Notice the stump to the right near the fenceline
Notice the stump to the right near the fenceline

As unsightly as the dead tree became, the line of trees is perhaps even more unsightly now with it removed. When trees grow so close together, each tree is stilted in the area between the trees as their branches become entangled but lush in the areas away from other trees due to the lack of competition.

As I contemplate the missing tree and the gaps within its surviving neighbor (shown in the picture above) I contemplate my life right now. I can resonate with that tree because we are about to be transplanted to another state. I took a new job, a great job that excites me to no end. But this new job is a new state far away from our families and friends. This transplantation will involve uprooting us from all of our familiar surroundings and entanglements to an entirely new landscape.

To continue the metaphor, when transplanting a tree you can as much roots as you can. However, you can’t take it all. We are leaving behind our jobs, our work friends, our families, our friends, our kids’ schools, pretty much everything that has rooted us for the many years we’ve been in Seattle. We’re taking the kids from the only school they’ve ever known, from their friends and activities, from their favorite parks and beaches, from their beloved grandmother who spends every Thursday with them, from the house and neighborhood that has brought us so many good memories, etc.

But I have found with each one of my moves that it’s the small entanglements that sometimes are most disorienting. And who knows what those will be? The sight of Mt. Rainier on a clear sunny day? The 12th man flag flying on game days? The familiar barista? The mail man at work? Who knows? But I’m feeling the loss of those entanglements as I contemplate that vulnerable and scarred surviving tree.

Despite it all, I’m driven by a conviction that this move is the right move for our family. Helena, Montana seems like a great place to live and the superintendent’s position is a dream come true. I’m excited to teach the kids how to fish, ski, hike, camp, and canoe. I look forward to sprouting new connections and growing together in many, many ways.

But it’s important to recognize the sadness in me so that I can help Joanne, Henry, Lucille, and George as they struggle to navigate the difficult tasks of saying goodbye and of setting new roots. That tree will survive and will fill in the gaps. So will we.