Thursday, 22 September 2005

On my way home Wednesday night, the sky was getting dark. Fast. The clouds were rolling in, but it still looked like a pretty normal evening thunderstorm. Little did I know.

Without a second thought, I finished my errands and made my usual Wednesday visit to a local restaurant. I’m there most Wednesday nights for a couple reasons. It gives me time away from the distractions at home (TV, Internet connectivity, etc.) where I can work on my writing. Second, I can grab dinner while I’m there. That my brother works there is an added benefit.

About half-way through dinner the rain started coming down hard. I’ll admit it was a bit disconcerting when the dime-sized hail and the gale-force winds started. Still, it was no big deal; I’d just hang out a little longer and work some more.

Not long after that, the power went out. Not just at the restaurant, but the car dealers on either side. And the half-dozen businesses across the street. And everything else I could see from my window seat.

Then the weather got really nasty. The wind picked up even more and the rain was coming down in sheets. Cars were stopped on the road because they couldn’t see anything.

After 45 minutes or so of eating and working in the dark, the wind and rain had let up enough that I felt comfortable going home. Sure, the power was still out and the house would be dark, but the laptop was out of battery so I had nothing better to do. At the very least I’d be able to read by flashlight for a while and go to bed early.

A fallen tree limb was partially blocking the driveway as I pulled in. Considering the wind earlier, it wasn’t that surprising. Finding leaves all over the place and the storm draims completely overwhelmed wasn’t unexpected either.

It turns out I didn’t know the half of it.

Safely inside, the rain started up again, without the wind this time. This pass wasn’t as long as the first, nor as fierce. I kept reading just the same. I wanted the storm to truly be over before I went out to investigate.

I was distracted from my reading by strange lights playing across the window. Opening the shades, I couldn’t see a thing. It was pitch black. I directed the flashlight out the window, but it still took several seconds to register what I saw. There was a tree blocking my view. A tree that didn’t belong there.

Normally the tree stood majestically, 30-40 feet from where it now lay. The canopy was usually just beyond my reach from the upstairs window where its leaves would turn glorious, firey colors each fall. It was the one thing that could convince me, if only for a couple months every year, there might still be some magic left in the world.

Now my long-time companion was effectively dead.

And that wasn’t the only one. Wandering the courtyard I saw at least 15 similar tragedies. Trees toppled as though someone just pushed them over as easily as one swats a fly.

That is (or was) one of my favorite things about this townhouse complex — the old trees in the common areas. Before the storm, we had 30-40 of them, each over 40 years old. Now we’re left with about half.

There were 20 or so trees, each over 40 years old, toppled over. It looked like someone just pushed them over, tearing the roots from the ground.

I can’t help but feel as though I’ve lost several old friends. It’s enough to make me cry.

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