Lots of trees in Seattle...
Lots of trees in Seattle... Charles Mudede

According to Treepedia, the density of Seattle's forest is second only to Sacramento's in the US. Vancouver BC, which is up in Canada and the second-largest city in the Pacific Northwest, has a denser forest than Seattle's. And exactly how many trees are in our city? The 2012 report Forest Ecosystem Values: Analysis of the Structure, Function, and Economic Benefits estimated there are 4.35 million trees and tree-like shrubs in Seattle. This means there are "7 trees and tree-like shrubs per person."

Though Treepedia determines tree density by the image of a city's canopy, it's important to note that there is no such thing as a tree. It is a pure concept: a tall plant (tall by human standards—and we are pretty big animals) that has branches and a stick in the middle. That's about it. There is no hard science to tree-ness. It's simply something that looks like one. The reason for this surprising vagueness is found in many botanical facts, such as: something that looks like a bush to us can also be of the same species as something that looks like a tree. Sometimes, what can become tree becomes a shrub instead, because of where the seed happened to land and grow. With plants, it's location, location, location.

Indeed, I have often wondered if moving a tree from its location, its spot, changes its being. Is transplanting a tree from one place—a patch of ground with its specific mix of nutrients, its structure and texture of soil, its access to light—to, say, one of the spheres that Amazon is building in downtown Seattle, or to another part of a park, like that giant sequoia in Boise, Idaho, the same as taking the brain out of one person and placing into the skull of another (if such a surgery was possible)? Would that brain in the new body be the same person? I do not think so. Being is a body that's fixed in time. This is what MC Milk meant when he rapped: "Mom and dad, they knew the time." Could it be we are rooted in time the way a tree is rooted in a place? And let's also keep in mind that some scientists believe that the roots are the brain of a tree.

And does a tall plant with branches and a stick in the middle even have a sense of being? Yes, it does. Why? Because it has a sense of self. It knows others that are like itself, and others that are not like itself. It does not like being eaten. This is being a tree.