Think About It: Time on the bench

Nearly 25 years ago, we bought our Sequim home. The house was what some referred to as a “spec” house meaning the builder was building it for someone other than himself.

That someone other turned out to be us. I had the space I needed to have a home and complete my consulting work before I started full time at what was then called Olympic Memorial Hospital.

My husband Paul looked forward to creating a livable space out of an unfinished basement and landscaping what was mostly rocks and sandy dirt, a not unfamiliar soil condition in our area of Sequim.

The two-story house was situated at the top of what was a long sloping pile of rocky soil in which thistle was thriving. The first order of finishing work was to have the asphalt driveway put in, which under the terms of the purchase agreement was our responsibility.

The steep driveway, which has endured at least 2,600 trips up and down it for the collection of trash and recycling, was the beginning structure of what was to become a park-like setting created out of Paul’s vision, heart and hard physical work. Paul rocks!

Rocks collected by sifting soil using a handmade screen become rivers running through mini mountains, berms made of sifted sand and dirt. Sand became the basis of a Zen Garden reminiscent of our visit to Japan for one son’s wedding.

Small trees were planted, some purchased and some volunteers in soil that began to nourish new life that happened to arrive by wind. Paul took every volunteer tree and planted it in a place that matched his vision.

We did purchase a tall Birch tree that I selected as a birthday present for me when I turned 60. I selected it because one of its trunks jutted away from the others which I thought interesting.

Now, nearly 20 years later it is a tall and stately tree residing among other planted trees that have grown into a small forest at the bottom of the slope next to the road.

Not every tree worked out, mostly because they grew bigger than we thought they would. The best example is a tree we planted on top of the slope adjacent to the road above our home. The perfectly sized tree remained so a few years and eventually sprouted to about 20 feet.

Much to the delight of neighbors above us, we had it cut down last month. The tree was too big for the spot and cut light from our south side; however, it was a great bird tree. Woodpeckers we had been feeding fled.

We felt like we caused the bird version of Russia invading Ukraine and wished we had thought of a relocation plan.

Much earlier another tree, a Japanese maple, was removed when it began to block views of other plants from the now filled-in downstairs area; Paul admonishes me and anyone else not to call it a basement. I understand, given we both came out of homes in which the basement floor was below the level of the windows and tended to be damp and dark with walls of cracked concrete.

Paul did a beautiful job of designing and establishing the downstairs as a living area. It is much like having an entire other house, although my office is in the middle of it all. I admit to being uncomfortable with so much space. After all, we can only take up so much space at one time.

Our son, who lives a simple life — he lives in a beautifully-crafted camper he built that looks like home for a hobbit — can barely hide his disapproval.

I get over it especially when I go into the “French Room” which leads into what else — the “French Garden.” The French Garden is built on a level area raised and contained by large timbers, all placed by Paul.

Park benches

The French Garden has patio seating and can be pleasant but is cursed by winds that join the neighborhood starting early in the evening. The patio area is the most formal of our garden. We wanted a more natural or simple look for the largest part of our landscape which I began calling a park after a few years.

We planned for seating areas where a person could go and reflect or just be. We put a bench in the Zen Garden. We placed a bench in another area sheltered by a growing Linden tree.

We bought the wood for the bench in Montana while traveling with our dear friend and my closest female friend. Younger and smarter than I, I loved and learned from her.

She died unexpectedly now 23 years ago of a burst brain aneurysm. We missed her dearly and dedicated the bench and tree to her.

We now have another bench placed which we situated close to the road and in a space that people could stop and rest. Three posts that hold the bench seat are made from that errant trunk of the Birch tree that was threatening to pull the whole tree over.

I am hoping editor Mike will find a space for the photo so readers can see the beauty of the bench and the cutting spot on Bertha’s birthday tree from which its footing was taken.

The bench is there for all to enjoy the beauty of Paul’s Park. He does not want me to put a plaque on the bench. He may change his mind but until then just think of it as Bertha giving up a limb for his vision.

Bertha Cooper, an award-winning featured columnist with the Sequim Gazette, spent her career years in health care administration, program development and consultation and it the author of the award-winning “Women, We’re Only Old Once.” Cooper and her husband have lived in Sequim more than 20 years. Reach her at

Submitted photo
 The Coopers’ bench.

Submitted photo The Coopers’ bench.