Friday, January 28, 2011

Any Tree in a Storm

Before the storm hit, a dried dahlia
strikes a beguiling pose.
Afternoon light added a sparkle to coneflower,
which is now under a blanket of snow.
The dog and I are comfortably snuggled into the sofa this afternoon. The heat is thrumming, a comforting white noise that we sorely missed these past 24 hours when a storm hit Wednesday night. It knocked out our power and took down several limbs on my maple tree (damaging our gutter). It also severed one of my new dogwoods and crushed one of my old ones.

The dogwood that was crushed was the one that sheltered my chair. Its branch, which is now hanging from the trunk by a woody thread, was the one that literally created the rooftop to my shade garden. The overhead leaf cover was so dense, I could sit in my chair in a light rain and be almost completely protected from any raindrops. The dogwood must have been decades old. It was among the original backyard plantings that came with the house when we bought it 25 years ago.

I've taken on an almost magical, mystical appreciation for trees lately. I feel rather certain that they share something akin to human-like traits and speak to us in ways that are both spiritual and real. I read somewhere that if you were patient with a tree, visited it often, took shelter under its branches, even brought it gifts, it would reward you with a kind gesture or a very real-world acknowledgment. And so I beg of you, don't make fun, but I am a tree hugger. I like to wrap my arms around a tree and place my cheek against its trunk to see if I can feel the pulse of its life, the water surging from deep within its roots as it travels up through its trunk and out to its branches. The temperature of the trunk of a tree is often exactly what I crave, depending on the season. On a hot day, the trunk feels cool to the touch and in the winter, it generates warmth.

The branches of the now-destroyed maple are all strewn about our side property. Some of them are literally the size of a good-size tree. Had they hit our roof, the huge logs would have caused some very serious damage. And yet the space between our houses is little more than a mere 20 feet. How is it that the tree managed to drop its branches into such a narrow passageway, with only a brushing glance to the gutter?

Down the street, a massive American beech tree split during the storm at its apex and fell as if it was trying ever so hard to minimize the damage. A direct hit to either of the houses would have been tragic. At the time, I'm told, the family was upstairs putting their young children to bed. Two massive branches are indeed, lying across the back slope of their roof, but the house remains intact.

A few years ago, I watched from my back window during an afternoon summer storm as a tree split during a brutal wind surge. As it fell, I was certain the tree was consciously twisting and turning, as if it meant to lay itself neatly into the narrow space between the houses. No one was hurt and damage was minimal.

I'm not saying that trees don't cause terrific damage during storms. Of course we know they do and someone did die when a tree fell on their car on Wednesday night. But I wonder, sometimes, if they do try very hard not to. 

So when Jim asked me Wednesday night if I wanted to sleep in the basement in case a tree branch were to fall on our bedroom roof, I told him no. I wanted to sleep in my own bed. And for some reason, I felt safe. The Putterer

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