Stern Nature

I’ve let half of July expire. Well, good riddance.

The real storm came amidst the storm inside me. Holiday weekend, the fifth of July, we raced home from Niobrara after only about 24 hours in that lovely country. We had been visiting the family homestead, perched atop a promontory above the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri rivers. It was a peaceful visit. About three and a half hours driving home (love that Lewis and Clarke rest stop near Sioux City), then quick get ready to join more friends and family at one of our signature Italian steakhouses.

It was not an unpleasant evening. But somehow my insides were rebelling from all the activity, the stress and strain of fast travel and holiday fun mingled with workplace chaos. I had been feeling sick, for weeks, from some unknown cause, and I was tired of it. My sister was among our party, visiting from Atlanta with her husband, and her presence also puts me on edge these days.

After the restaurant we gathered at our home for some congenial conversation, but my stomach and head would have none of it. It’s really too bad, to have a holiday weekend–and the first time off from the job in months–spoiled by a queasiness and uneasiness that won’t dissipate.

About midnight I drove a friend visiting from California back to his hotel downtown. It was just another calm, humid summer evening on the Plains. But on my way back the wind came up. That’s not so strange, but then I noticed the small trees blowing across the streets and the traffic lights swinging to horizontal. Lightning, torrential rain followed.

I made it home, and the button on my garage remote told me the power was out. I parked and ran up to the front door. My wife was relieved to see me. Then I looked out the back window to see the reason the power was out–our mature Bartlett Pear had been split by lightning, and half of its venerable body lay across the power lines. The main line carrying power had snapped. All was darkness and fury.

We were without power only for a couple of days. We kept staring out the window at our yard, now exposed to the neighborhood. My wife’s brother brought over the chain saw and we proceeded to autopsy our fallen friend. Half of him still stands, but not for long. This winter, when he’s bare of leaves, we’ll take the rest of him down.

We kept coming up with “bright sides” during this time. “Well, at least we won’t have to pay to have the whole tree taken down,” or “Well, at least it didn’t fall on the house.”

I still felt sick, now sick at heart. It was like the death of a family member. We mourned that tree.

We’ve planted others; in fact a small young pear tree stands beside the dead trunk, waiting to grow into the new sunlight exposed by its absence. We planted it knowing the old one would not last forever. It had been struck before, probably by the early snowstorm of 1997, and was ailing already.

I’m feeling better now. Let re-growth begin.

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