Erasing the Destruction

Were these tears of joy for life spared or sorrow for life lost? The emotional reality was that her house was still standing — that my dear friend and others survived — fully encircled by the death of nearly every tall tree nearby.

Climbing up to the house to check on Clare in Upper Salford Township, Montgomery County, PA. This photo was taken near the corner where the (inaccessible) driveway meets the road. A similar scene could be found throughout the region.

 

They said it lasted only a few minutes. I had been home at the time, watching the rain pour down, all the while friends were cowering from the wind in basements just a few miles away, hugging their pets and yelling for their families. With all power out, it took two days before I learned of their ordeal.

Once I did, I found healthy oaks and sycamores demolished while dying ash remained standing. I counted at least 96 rings on one of the smaller casualties. The tree-death tally in the immediate region is possibly over four-digits long. This is the reality we must accept.

But what of the cleanup, in which the humans busily, quickly reduce the aftermath to lumber piles and wood chips? The stumps are ground like erasers to canvas, and every bird nest and seed raked away. Dust cannot return to dust in our time frame; we are unwilling to wait for Nature to clean (in her own way) that which she wrecks (in her own way).

Of course, foremost I am thankful that (remarkably) no one was hurt. And gratitude abounds for the tireless, caring response of the emergency crews and others. These are my tears of joy.

“If only I had parked in the garage,” she said repeatedly.

 

But because the loss of life has been limited to non-human kind, there are no emotional support groups. There are no counseling sessions to teach us how to cope with the loss.  In fact, after the clearing is done, there will be sunlight in places that for years have seen darkness, and homeowners will have fewer leaves to rake come autumn. Eventually the mushrooms might mark the graves of rotting roots, but even then, who will remember the trees? These are my tears of sorrow.

 

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