If you turn onto the gravel road that takes you into the forested, future site of Circlewood Village on Camano Island, the first home you pass is Bonnie MacPhail's. Bonnie is a great neighbor who has become a good friend. One thing that connects us is a deep love for the natural world, and a desire to do what we can to protect and restore it. Bonnie graciously agreed to share about her current endeavor to reforest several fields that lay between her home and the Puget Sound shoreline. I hope you find her work as inspiring as I do. - James

My late husband and I would often look at the fields on either side of Hagen Road with concern. It was prime property for development. Not only would a housing development disrupt the rural feeling of the area, but in my mind it would be a sacrilegious act. The property had already been violated by being clearcut. My husband and I discussed it and agreed we would try to purchase the land. I looked up the owner, and fortunately he was very willing to sell! Thus began my relationship with “the field”.

Small but beautiful buds!

Whenever I looked out at the field, I saw it restored to forestland. After my husband passed on in March 2019, I filled some of the void by taking a forestry class. I learned about the Garry Oak, a native to our area. (Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island is named after the Garry Oak.) It is quite drought resistant, which is a good quality in Western Washington's lengthening drought season. So in the spring of 2020, I planted 230 trees. I put a mixture of white pine and Garry Oak in the field, and a few cedars back in the wetlands. It was a serene, fulfilling way to spend time during the disruptive time of COVID. And, in the true nature of gifting, my gift to the earth came back to me in a contented connection with nature.

A Garry Oak that is doing quite well!

This was in many ways natural for me – I grew up helping my father plant trees in our orchard. My father planted a pear orchard when he was in his mid-80’s. When asked why he would plant an orchard that he would not be around to harvest, he just replied “Well I’m not planting it for myself!” How fortunate to have that mentoring. Of course, I am not planting these trees for myself! These trees are for the health of the planet. If I get human-centric, they will benefit humankind - I guess I will benefit from their oxygen after about 20 years! Reciprocity with the earth, and all its flora and fauna, keeps everything in balance. Nature has many gifts for us. When something is gifted, there is a responsibility to give back. I believe in that very strongly.

At my kitchen table.

If you find yourself in my neighborhood, walking or driving by the field, please don’t hold your breath to see the transformation. Oaks grow very, very slowly. This will be the third growing season for them, and they have grown from four inches to between 6-18 inches. (Eighteen inches is the exception!) They have been spending their energy putting down deep roots. What wise trees!

Bonnie MacPhail

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