Tuesday, October 10, 2006



Tree Hugger

This past week has been full of beauty and natural wonder and sadness. Walking to school on Monday, we saw a double-rainbow so bright in spots we could barely look at it. It wasn't raining and hadn't rained. A father crossed the street and commented to us that it was scary, "What does it mean?" he asked. This concerned McDaniel. Why would something so beautiful scare a grown up?

Last Thursday around 4:00 p.m., while enjoying a rare moment of quiet on the couch reading, I heard an explosion and the room flooded with a bright white light. A storm had blown in suddenly, forcing us inside from the backyard where we were playing. I sent the girls downstairs to watch TV so I could enjoy some quiet time. It lasted about 1 1/2 minutes.

Quickly, I thought the house or transformer had been struck by lightning (the power in the den and living room only went out) I rushed to check on the girls downstairs. They had heard nothing and were content, watching their show. I mentioned something had been struck by lightning and McDaniel asked if their was a fire. Good question, I thought to myself as I casually excused myself and then ran like the dickens upstairs to check for smoke. As I gawked out the window for any signs of fire and/or destruction, the black sky was momentarily illuminated by lightning that showed me exactly what happened. Our nearly 100-foot Sycamore tree in our backyard (less than 10 feet from our house) had the perfect markings of a lightning strike. It was as if a big ol' grizzly bear (with just one hook instead of multiple claws--work with me here) had clawed its way from the base of the tree up the ENTIRE height of the tree and then down the other side (which we didn't discover until two days later).

I was scared too death. One, what if the tree was unstable and going to fall on the house? Two, what if it was smoldering on the inside and eventually going to burn up the entire neighborhood? And three, four and five, what if the tree was going to FALL on the house?!?!?!

I called Monte who was all the way over on the east side of town getting our station wagon serviced. He didn't answer the first three times I called. When we finally connected, he instructed me and the girls to stay in the basement. By the time he made it home, the storm had blown over and we inspected the tree and took pictures. It was pretty amazing the way no limbs blew off or the fact the tree didn't crack or split. Or explode. From the debris on the ground, it did seem to scare it barkless.

During dinner the storm returned so we rushed back to the basement just in time to watch golf ball size hail destroy my beautiful impatiens that grew in the stair-step flower beds outside our egress window. The girls thought the world was ending. Monte and I were fascinated and glued to the window and forgot about our tree for a short while.

The next days were spent raking up green leaves (do you know how much heavier they are then their pretty red, yellow and brown cousins?) and assessing house, window and car damage. And, of course, taking pictures of our tree. The entire neighborhood and many friends have been by to look at, touch and offer advice for our beloved tree. In the past few days I've become a tree hugger, we all have. You see, it's base when we play tag. It's where we count for Hide and Go Seek and it's first base when we play whiffle ball. On the 4th of July at noon, we can sit in our backyard and not swelter. It's an awesome tree--the tallest on our block--quite possibly our street.

Dennis, the arborist, who strangely reminded me of my paternal grandfather who had a tree farm, broke the news to me yesterday in the back yard. "It has to go, honey," he said gently (I forgave him the remark because he was 75+ and I really appreciated the kindness). It was dying, more than likely fried on the inside with badly damaged thick, high limbs that stretch out over our house and our neighbors. There was too much risk to keep it. Sometimes beautiful things do become scary. Surprising myself, my bottom lip stuck out four blocks and shook wildly.

"I hate it when I have to give bad news," Dennis went on sweetly, giving me time to compose myself.

I kept thinking of the Lorax, half-expecting Dr. Seuss's little orange guy to pop out from behind the tree and say, "Mister! I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. And I'm asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs…"

But he didn't.

"You don't understand," I said brokenly. "That's base when we play tag. It's where we count for Hide and Go Seek and it's first base when we play whiffle ball. On the 4th of July at noon, we can sit right here and not swelter. I love this tree," I squeaked inaudibly. I felt as if I were also speaking for the previous two owners of the house. Sixty years of memories surrounded this tree. It was here before the house was even built. I wasn't the first to utter love for this tree.

"I know, honey," Dennis comforted and then wrote out an estimate for the Sycamore's removal that made Monte cry.

Dennis told me that Sycamore wood is not good for anything: building or burning. Once chopped up, they will throw it in the dump. Something so tall and massive good for nothing but a tree.

Monte is convinced it took the hit for us, sparing the house the lightning strike. A protector while he was away. That's deserving of a hug, don't you think? And a prayer. We've been praising God--for seeing us through the storm and for his beautiful artistry of double rainbows and big tall Sycamores.

We've promised the girls that we'll plant again and let them help us decide what and where. Isn't there a quote out there somewhere about the closest we can come to immortality is to write a book and plant a tree? Two of my favorite things.

I think I became a tree hugger long before now. Digging through an old bag, I found some of my old poetry. This is from middle school or early high school. Forgive the lack of flow and overly brooding nature of it. Some things just don't change.

Looking into a pond of my childhood
I eagerly seek to find
If all my favorite places to go
Had stood the test of time

The log I used to sit and think on
Isn't there
And the place where wildflowers used to grow
Is bare

Turning around I was sure to find
That real tall tree that I used to climb
The one that stood out among all the other trees
And the one that broke my first bone
I found it right away because
It stood there all alone

Upset, I look down to see the one thing
That is left to remind me of my childhood
They're the rocks I wished could take my problems away
And when thrown across the water would

Looking into a pond of my childhood
I question the person I see
I throw in a rock to get rid of my reflection
And run over to hug my tree

1 comment:

  1. Another Wow from me, that tree was gorgeous with the lightening strike. Too bad you could not have made it into something like a table or a chair. And that poem....I am intrigued. I would like to get to know that girl who threw a rock at her reflection.

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