Starting Back Up



Summer Shutdown was the stuff of dreams for a whirling dervish of stressiness like me.

As I sit here on my last evening shut down, getting organized to go back to work tomorrow and “processing” all my photos and follow up from an amazing ten days at my beautiful mountain home, I’m overcome with gratitude at being forced into time off at the peak of summer, along with every other person in my company. I had not a single ounce of work stress nor worry while I was away. I got to sleep in, go off the grid into the mountains every day, ignore my phone, ignore my email, and when I finally checked back in, there was NOTHING waiting for me. 

Truly, nothing – I got eight emails over the span of ten days. EIGHT! That, in modern email terms, is a statistical ZERO.

That’s not to say I had absolutely NO stress, though… I am Lisa after all, and I can ALWAYS find something to stress about.

Namely, when we got to Arnold, on one of my routine find-things-to-stress-about passes around our property, I discovered that bark beetle had finally arrived in our ponderosa pine trees.



These little f#@%ers are making their way north through California’s forests, chewing up all the big pines they can lay their eggs in. With their population booming in response to four years of drought, and abundant weak trees – their habitat and food supply – everywhere, they’ve devastated the forests of the southern Sierra and scientists think it’s only a matter of time before they reach the Oregon border.

Their presence is certainly felt now in Calaveras County; lucky for us, our home is located in an area of the Sierra not dominated by pine trees. We’re in the Stanislaus National Forest, backing to 20 open acres of land at an elevation covered mostly by old and new growth incense cedar, with some oak trees mixed in. Nevertheless, there are still giant, towering ponderosas here and there (including some along the road in front of our house), and it seems these giants’ time may have come.

My heart sank when I noticed the dozens of small oozing spots about ten feet up on the trunk of our biggest pine – the telltale sign of a beetle strike. After making my way around the property and, eventually, up and down the street, I found that EVERY pine in the area had been hit. All the ponderosas were most likely done for.

But not necessarily done for. You see, you can save a tree that’s only been attacked by bark beetle but not begun to die yet – trees that are still green, like ours. Not that I was even certain I wanted to save ours; doing battle against the mighty beetle might very well be futile, and not the kind of activity a whirling dervish of stress such as myself would be wise to undertake at a “vacation home.”

Still… The July 4th holiday is one I’ve long struggled to turn into a happy occasion in my life: one NOT about death. As a small girl, it was my beloved grandmother’s firework-infused birthday; then, after her untimely passing from cancer, I lost my grandfather just six months later on July 4th. And just a few years after that, my own father – their only son – died on the 1st. We buried him on the 4th, in the sticky, sickly humid Michigan summer. It was the worst, saddest day of my life, despite the many attempts to paint the fireworks going off during his wake as symbolic of his ascension to a better place, where the family would be reunited.

Perhaps you now understand why my gut reaction to spotting bark beetles was “Goddammit, my pine trees are NOT going die on the 4th of July now, too!” That is, not unless I WANT them to die because it’s the smarter, more ecologically (and financially) responsible thing to do.

I needed more information to make that call.

So how does one do battle against the beetle? Well, for starters, you call an arborist and get an estimate on how bad the beetle strike is. The arborist can identify trees strong enough to be injected with an insecticide that can kill beetles inside the bark (and keep it safe for a few years). Except…

In a state decimated by bark beetle, arborists are not easy to find. The forestry service, Cal-Fire, the next door neighbor, and a random real estate agent all basically told me “LOLZZZ!!!”

But I did get a random tip from a nice park ranger… “Call ahead of the beetles.” They’re coming from the south, so jump ahead of them by a couple counties to the north; see if an arborist in El Dorado or Placer counties will make the trip down.

So I made a few calls, and eventually I hit on a very nice arborist in El Dorado county who gave me the cell phone number of one of his crew who was out on the road and “probably willing” to make the almost two-hour drive to Arnold.

This arborist, Scot, was a super nice guy. I was a little surprised he agreed to do it, honestly. We spoke on Tuesday afternoon and by Friday AM he was at our house, inspecting our trees and giving us the skinny on which ones could be injected (a few of them, actually) and what it would take for the insecticide to work (a lot of constant water; not exactly going to be easy at a vacation home). There was no savings to be had – cut the trees down or inject them to save them, the costs were a wash.

But I honestly wasn’t as riveted to the conversation as I usually am (after all, problemsolving with contractors is my FAVORITE!). No joke – I was distracted by a very uncanny feeling that I had met Scot before.

And then he spotted the Old English D tattoo on my shoulder.

“Shut the front door. Where are you from?”

Within five minutes, Scot and I had determined that we grew up within a mile of each other. When he mentioned he lived in the neighborhood “next to Meijer on Sheldon, before they built Sheldon Center road,” I actually came to the realization that we might have grown up even closer than that… But it was so weird…

Impossibly weird. It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t be.

I let it pass. But I couldn’t put it out of my mind.

Later that day, Scot emailed me an estimate for injecting our trees. When I saw his last name on the email, my brain started to swirl.

I called my mother.

“Mom. Scot Haynes. What does that name mean to you?”

“You grew up with him on Crestmont. His parents, Ivan and Carol – they babysat you the night your sister was born. You kids were always playing outside together. What on earth made you think of him?”

“Well, it appears after not seeing him for twenty years, I moved 2,500 miles away, then a decade later I bought a house 2.5 hours away from there in the mountains, then a year later found out my trees were attacked by bark beetle, couldn’t find an arborist to come look at them, called a bunch of arborists two hours away from THERE, and…



I immediately texted “Scot the Arborist”:


(I’ll get to the shark story on here some day; promise)

Wait – that’s how this happened.

Whether the trees live or die is not the issue. The trees had to get bark beetle so I could get this July 4th message from my past; from my father, from my glorious happy childhood on Crestmont with the gaggles of children always at my house, gathered around dad playing Munch Man on the TI 99 and cowboys and indians in the front yard and kickball in the back yard and running wild in the lawnmower maze he cut for us in the field they eventually mowed down to build Sheldon Center Road.

July 4th – the infamous time of sadness I battle with still, after so many years – continues its slow recycling into happiness, like green moss growing on a rotting tree trunk in a dark wood.

TFW is still here, always here, circling back in ways I would have never imagined.

TFW: Still with us after all these years.

TFW: Still with us after all these years.

Oh… And if you’re wondering what else we did on Summer Shutdown besides live out this epic adventure of trees and decades-old friendship and signs from the other side, well…

Art fair!
Swimming hole!
More friends!
More barbecue!
More swimming hole!
More friends!
More swimming hole!
More cards!
More swimming hole!
More barbecue!
More bar!












(Stay tuned for an update after Scot and I get together and do some hardcore reminiscing…)

See all our pics of Summer Shutdown 2016 here.

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10 thoughts on “Starting Back Up

  1. Margaret Wisniewski says:

    Wow! You wove that wonderful story about the trees into a memory from the past, brought to life again. Do you think it is a sign? I certainly do! Somehow, the Fourth of July will never be the same. And we can thank the bark beetle for that one (I like those beetle bugs in your drawing, ominous, yet whimsical).

    Your penchant for scientific research led you down a path that led to the renewal of a friendship from long ago. I pity the poor bark beetle, but lucky us for finding long lost friends and neighbors. Sometimes the strangest experiences lead to the most wonderful coincidences.

    On a side note, dealing with contractors and bark beetles is child’s play for you. Wonder where you got that from? Your dad, maybe? If there was a flaw in an argument, he would find it. And if there was a better way to do something, he would find it. If there was a problem, he would solve it. He must have been at work here. I am glad he left you with a little sign that he is still part of you, and helped make you the person you are today. Even after 23 years, TFW is still making a difference. What a great legacy for you and Sarah. Hang on to it.

    As for your time in “paradise”, time well spent. Imagine shutting down for a week and only eight emails! Woo Hoo! You have actually experienced some real R&R! Remember to budget for more of it. You will need the rest to solve the next batch of problems that come along. And in your research, remember to be open to the possibilities. Sometimes problems bring progress. And sometimes they bring wonderful surprises.

    Happy “Independence” Day!



  2. Martha says:

    Loved the whole story, Lisa. It was a sign from your dad for sure . . . I am a big believer in those “serendipitous events/coincidences” from above. A year after I moved to Seattle, I was lonesome for Michigan. As I was pondering Michigan, in comes a customer who wants a sofa. When she showed me her license while making the purchase, lo’ and behold, she was from Michigan . . . not only that, she had just moved from 24 Mile Road in Macomb on the corner of Romeo Plank Road . . . THAT WAS THE SAME CORNER I LIVED ON. What are the chances of you meeting Scot in Arnold on vacation or me meeting Doris in Seattle at precisely the timing you were in Arnold and I was scheduled to work at the store that day? It is a small world to be sure. Doris and I became friends. It is nice to have a Michigan friend in the middle of Seattle, which is definitely full of non-Midwest people. So glad July 4th weekend is morphing into a happier time for you.

  3. Denise says:

    It truly is a small world! 😊 Awesomeness brought to you by TFW!!!

  4. […] weeks after discovering bark beetles had struck our biggest pines, on the 4th of July, we came back to our cabin in Arnold to […]

  5. […] filled up the rest of our weekend, by the way – planning for the future. Remember Scot the Arborist? He came back on Friday night. Only this time, he brought his horticulturalist wife (Tamara), and […]

  6. […] The mountain house has saved us in so many ways. It’s been our escape; our place to leave technology behind (except for Roku TV – duh!). Our place to dream about what our future together might be like when we leave our tech careers behind. Our place to be alone; our place to be with friends – new friends, old friends, and really, really old friends. […]

  7. […] Some time in mid-November, we were notified by our neighbor up in Arnold, Nick, that Mario’s Tree Service had come and cut all the trees on our property struck by bark beetle this summer. […]

  8. […] after enlisting the expert help of the most unlikely arborist savior possible and devising an exceptional plan to do battle with the beetle, we return to our cabin just three […]

  9. […] (plus our 80s neighbor Scot and his wife Tamara) at Utica […]

  10. […] When we first got intimate with the bark beetles… […]

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