August 28, 2020

My doorbell rang as I sat working in my office.  I was a little surprised as we have had few visitors during the outbreak.  I am waiting on a FedEx shipment of San Juan Worms for a fishing trip we have scheduled in September and I thought that might be what it was.  Instead, it was the caretaker for the church that adjoins our back lot.  He mentioned the tree that had fallen on our property and wondered if I would be willing for a friend of his to cut it up for firewood.  I did not know what he was talking about and followed him outside.  Sure enough, the large oak tree that stood behind our shop had been torn up by its roots and now lay along the tree line between our properties.  There was a large root ball still attached to the tree.

The recent heavy rains had saturated the ground and the strong winds combined to bring the tree down.  It was too strong to break, so it was literally torn up by its roots.  As the caretaker and I stood around the tree talking he mentioned how many trees had been lost since they built the church in 1990 (Melissa built her house in 1995).  Apparently, the tree line had once been a small forest dividing our properties.  When I asked Melissa about this, both she and my niece told me about the ice storm that devastated the trees in 2006.  The ice accumulated to nearly three inches think, and the branches started coming down.  Many of the trees also fell from the weight, making a resounding crash in the night.  The oak had survived that catastrophe.

The tree was big enough it could have been used for lumber.  When the shop was in operation it had the saws and planers necessary to transform this tree into several hundred board feet of prime oak.  Sadly, without asking us if we wanted it, Melissa’s dad had given all the equipment away soon after we moved back.  As I looked at the size of the tree, I realized how lucky we were.   Had the tree fallen toward the shop rather than away from it, it would have crushed the building and everything we now have stored in it.  Thankfully, it missed.

THOUGHTS:  As I thought about our tree it struck me how what it had faced was like what we are now facing.  The tree had been strong enough to survive the ice storm that had claimed many of its companions.  It had continued to grow and become stronger.  However, with the combination of rain and wind it was brought down.  I have often heard the adage, “To bend but not break.”  Our tree refused to bend, and so it instead broke.  Its strength was its downfall (literally).  Some are telling us America is too strong to be brought down by the economic devastation wrought by covid-19 and systemic racism.  I hope we do not miss this opportunity to start bending.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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