Wednesday, August 29, 2007

After the storm

After I submitted my column to the Review Atlas last week, we had a little spot of interesting weather. And, as a result, my household held its third annual August ritual event: we had another treefall. I have decided that this will be the last year for such an event. All the tall trees on my property are coming down.

It’s not for my psychological or emotional well-being that the tree removal service has been called. I fear that aspect of my life is long since gone the way of the dinosaur. The trees simply need to leave. So to speak.

When I looked at the land my parents helped me buy (oh, let's be honest, they bought it for me, cheaply), I used to see three magnificent shade trees. I studied them with great pride. Along with the odd one in the back yard I have never been able to identify, two great maples stood out front, from near the turn of the previous century, reminders of our city’s nick-name. Three years ago, one of those mighty maples fell and took out the corner of my roof. Fortunately, I wasn’t sleeping under it at the time. Then, last year a branch from one forced me to replace my front porch posts and a few other parts. I had asked the tree guy to take the rest, if he could, and he told me it still had a few good years in it. I guess even the experts can be wrong. The rest of it fell last Thursday, in the 80-plus-mile-per-hour winds and driving rain. On the neighbor’s truck. That was the final straw. There are too many good people on my block (in my town, too, for that matter) to put any one of them at risk any more.

I hear that many other folks in the area are reaching the same conclusion, and have pulled out chain saws and will be keeping the tree removal services busy for a long time to come. However, I don’t think strong language will necessarily bring them around to anybody’s house any more quickly, any more than it will ease the installation of a new window or the harvesting of what remains of a field of corn.

This latest storm developed with little warning and left a great deal of chaos in its wake. The storm did a lot of serious damage to property, and claimed one life (we are most fortunate that it was only one, but that single loss we mourn). The post-storm chaos has done some irreparable harm, as well, though. Another family learned the hard way that downed power lines aren’t necessarily cut off from electricity, and that there are very good reasons the power company asks parents to keep children indoors following such a storm. My family’s sympathies go out to the family of the injured child, and we hope for the best possible outcome for them all. It could have been much worse.

The damage to the entire region, too, could have been much worse.

On the greater blessings side of this equation, we have seen that our little pocket of Forgottonia is resilient, that we are proud enough to start digging out as soon as the rains ceased, and that, when we are done with our own pressing issues, everybody pitches in to help the neighbors pick up theirs. Immediately upon hearing the degree of damage done to Kirkwood, several Monmouth organizations -- and a few others -- got going to take box meals and bottled water to the citizens of that small community. Other individuals opened up their houses to take in families whose homes had been too badly damaged for them to remain in.

Precautions still have been taken to prevent looting and other opportunistic crimes, in Kirkwood and in isolated neighborhoods throughout this storm-tossed region. Nobody with any sense begrudges the police barricades. Not only are they protecting the property of the residents, they’re protecting the well-being of our neighbors.

After all, even among those of us who have very limited means, most of us can afford to lose a few shingles, a window, a few appliances -- but our neighbors are our lifeline. It has been this way since the days of the pioneers, if not before. For neighbors, we must drop everything and come help. We’ll worry about settling the bill later.

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