We live in a valley running north/south that receives relatively little wind. Yesterday a mighty wind blew up from the south and hit our town hard. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of trees fell.
I know there are many places that have suffered much worse wind from tornadoes and hurricanes. I know there are cities that have much longer power outages and much more uncomfortable heat. I know there were places in the world this very week that suffered much worse violence and death.
I am overwhelmed by the news sometimes. I don’t know how to grieve for those places. I can volunteer to send aid, or even go pick up the pieces myself. I can weep with those who weep but I can’t honestly say “I know how you feel.” I don’t, not really. Every heart has its own pain.
Today I grieve for my town and for my own little garden. Is that selfish?
I loved my May tree. I never planted it. Someone who never saw it in its mature beauty had the foresight to put a skinny little stick with a couple of branches into a hole in a new subdivision. They moved away before it had the time to become the shade tree under which my sweet daughter and I had tea parties, or developed the strong limbs my boys pridefully climbed, waving at their nervous mother from a position higher than the roof of the house. The planter never knew how my little grandchildren loved to drag the blue inflatable pool into its shade on hot days and splashed each other or filled plastic ice cream pails with water from the elephant sprinkler to water the big shade tree. They never saw friends sitting in its shade, drinking ice tea, combing the grass with bare toes as they talked about things that really matter. They never saw handsome suited young men and their pretty sparkly prom dates posing for portraits beside its thick trunk. They never heard the songbirds that nested in its high branches praising their maker at the first sign of dawn. But they had faith to plant it, and I thank them.
Today instead of waking to the Saturday morning drone of lawn mowers, the people in our town woke to the sound of chain saws.
I walked around town photographing downed trees, downed wires, smashed carports, and debris and detritus caught in the most unusual places. The roads were blocked, the traffic signals hung by a cable and swung in the breeze. Everywhere people wandered about telling strangers their stories. “Where were you when the storm hit? Are you OK? Is your house OK? You think that’s bad? Why over on 14th…”
Eventually I wandered home no longer able to ignore the fact that the tree I loved buckled through the trunk and now tilted at a dangerous angle.
It had to come down.
Some friends arrived with chain saws. I covered my ears with music on earphones, or chatted loudly with friends we invited over for meals and to re-charge their phones and devices, since somehow our block still had power.
But it still sounded like a chain saw massacre in my garden.
Am I silly to grieve a tree?
I had to re-read my own post of a couple of days ago. Storms may come and storms may go. Wonder just how many storms it takes until I finally know you’re here always.
Yes He is here. We are safe. The tree fell away from the house. Our house is fine and still maintains its roof, and unlike many on our street, all of its shingles. We are still wealthier than most people in the world. The storm brought out the best in people. Neighbours came out into the street to check on each other and help each other. We laughed and joked with relief when we heard that, miraculously, no one was seriously hurt. We pooled our melting ice cream and partied.
But tonight I mourn.
Change is seldom easy, and rarely do we feel like we are ready for it, but things change. God is still in the restoration business and He is still good. I trust him to see the bigger picture. I praise Him and bless His Holy name.
Tonight I mourn.
Tomorrow we will start to clean up.
And then I shall plant a skinny two-branched shade tree to bless somebody’s grandchildren.
Photo: The shade tree after the storm