Those of you who live in the Portland area might be familiar with a local landmark that I call the tree tunnel. It’s that one-mile stretch of McLoughlin Boulevard that runs between Tacoma and Insley. At the south end, through Westmoreland Park, the trees are a unified army of oaks, standing sentry at either side of the road. But as you drive under the Bybee street overpass you cross into an area where they become a colorful mishmash.
Year round the trees are beautiful. In summer they provide a cool, green tunnel. In winter the oaks are stark, living sculptures against the gray sky. But in spring and fall, this stretch of highway takes on magic that can grip the attention of even the most zombified commuter.
In the fall the tree tunnel is a rampage of color. The leaves drift down and settle along the concrete divider. On a dry day as you rush along at fifty miles an hour they swirl up behind your car like in a tornado.
I’m a bit late in posting this, so right now the foliage is taking on it’s sedate summer appearance, but in early spring, the tree tunnel—particularly the northern part—is spectacular. The leaves begin to unfurl in a beautiful haze of green and red. There were so many varying shades, and the process happens over several weeks. Even at night under the streetlights you can see a hint of color, red, maroon, peach, chartreuse, and green. I can’t drive through there without drinking in every bit of beauty, appreciating the fact that I get to have this experience every year and silently thanking the people who planted those trees.
Creating the tree tunnel was an act of faith. A gift to the future. Trees aren’t like marigolds. You plant one and you know that you may not be around to appreciate its full glory. So many people are caught up in their own lives, their own fortunes, and even if they aren’t actively doing something that will have a negative effect on upcoming generations, they’re too busy gratifying themselves to worry about giving something to people they’ll never meet. Whoever planted those tress didn’t think that way, and because of it thousands of commuters get to enjoy the tree tunnel every day.
For years I enjoyed the tree tunnel on my own, foolishly thinking I was one of the few who appreciated it. But recent uproar over the mere suggestion that the trees might be cut down for the Light Rail gave me a whole new reason to appreciate it. I like it because it provides a sense of community. We all know the tree tunnel. We all love the tree tunnel. It’s part of our separate, private worlds, and yet we share it. There’s something important about the idea that being individuals doesn’t exclude us from being part of a community.