Friday, June 29, 2007


June 29, 2007

It has been raining for two days, good thing because our well-water was looking a little muddy and I had begun taking “navy” showers and watering the flowers with rinse water from the kitchen sink. HH isn’t a big fan of thunderstorms and neither am I. When the sky darkens and the wind suddenly powers through the cabin, we scurry from room to room closing windows, shutting doors and turning off lights. When everything is secured, he crawls in my lap with his smelly bear and we wait it out in our darkened living room, flashlight at the ready.

I don’t mind thuderstorms in the city, where I’m all wrapped up in steel and concrete, a few safe floors above the spit and gurgle of the street, but out here among the aging maples it’s another thing entirely. Trees fall regularly in this neighborhood. Last year, just a few yards from the cabin, a huge one got a direct lightning hit, exploded, split in half and took out the power lines as it fell in pieces to the ground. I happened to be looking out the kitchen window at the time and saw the whole thing. The live wires crackled and danced on the asphalt until the power company finally arrived and put things right. We were without electricity for about eighteen hours but it wasn’t the power outage that concerned me, it was the trees.

Just yesterday I was sitting on the porch reading a dusty 1955 paperback copy of Francoise Sagan’s "Bonjour Tristesse,” when I heard the sharp and unmistakable crack of a falling tree. The entire process of collapse, from that first crackle to the ending thud of the body on the forest floor, took no more than thirty seconds. From the sound of it the tree fell about two hundred yards from where I was sitting. The more I thought about it the more unnerved I became. I’ve always imagined that if a tree began to fall I would hear it in time to get myself or HH out of the way before it hit the ground, but yesterday’s event made it clear to me that it would be highly unlikely I’d be able to get out of the way in time unless I just happened to be staring up at the tree at the moment it decided to fall, poised to leap out of the way.

Last night another thunderstorm pulled into town, it came on like a migraine, a whisper of unfamiliar cold air and a deepening sky followed by the roar and shake of thunder and lightening as it made its way to a spot directly over the cabin. HH and I huddled together, just short of fear, and waited it out. It wasn’t a long storm, or a deadly one for any of our woody friends, at least not immediately.

The weather is supposed to be cool and dry for the next few days, a good thing for any number of reasons, not the least of which is the reduced likelihood of having a tree fall on us. But the thing about these old trees is; they don’t only fall when it rains. The unmarked accumulation of insults from wind and rain and ice preceed the unforseeable moment, and a perfectly normal tree can pop and fall with no notice whatsoever, not unlike the sudden heart attack that fells an otherwise robust 50 year old on his way home from McDonald’s.

So sit we will, in our shuttered cabin and wait out this summer’s storms, with little more than prayers to keep us safe from the vulnerable giants that surround us, shading us on the hot days of July and August and reminding us how nothing is as permanent as it may appear.

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