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Snow and A Lesson

November 8, 2011

The snow started Saturday, October 29. And the storm didn’t stop until it deposited 16 inches of snow. I love snow–I truly adore it. But on October 29? That’s too early, even for me (described by my family as the “consummate snow lover”).

Despite the odd timing of the storm, it was beautiful. So, I took many, many photos of gorgeous, heavily frosted branches.

Saturday Afternoon

(at the point I took this photo, we still had another 8 inches of snow coming)

After about 10 inches had fallen (we’d expected six to eight), the world was so muted and quiet. While the kids sledded, I took pictures in the hushed blanket of snow. I heard the trees cracking. I heard them breaking. I heard the thud of their falls. Each sound pierced the snow’s solitude.  Each time my heart lurched.


Sunday Morning

Digging out of 16 inches:


Wednesday Clean-Up Day:


My Dear Tree

This big, beautiful maple tree anchors my front yard.  I can see it from my office window;  I swear it whispers inspiration to me. If you were to ask me which I love more, trees or snow, I’d have a difficult time answering you. But seeing one of my loves hurting another, well, it sucks. When I first saw the damage, as I surveyed the tree carnage in our yard and in our neighborhood, I felt so heavy. Probably quite like the trees did as they tried to carry the weight of the storm which they could not manage.

The snow, it fell. The trees, they fell. My heart, it fell. The storm took trees, power, cable and internet out in her wake; many in our town were without power for 6 days (we got very, very lucky and only lost power for a total of 8 hours). But on the Wednesday after the storm,  in one short three hour stretch, my heart leapt. Henry and I decided to begin to tackle the crazy mess of tree-sized branches. We pulled the craggy tree limbs to the curb. Periodically I’d stop, realizing that I held in my arms the same branches that we’ve watched so often:

 Silhouetted with sun.

Shining with rain.

Bold and stark against heavy, charcoal November skies.

Rustling and full with vibrant green, late July leaves.

Henry ran up to me at one  point and said,

Mommy, dere’s a dead biwrd on the fwont porch again.

I asked if he’d like to bury it. Affirmative. He located a pair of latex gloves and brought the dead bird over to me for inspection.

See, Mommy? It’s a baby biwrd this time.

Henry decided he’d like to bury this bird on his own. He carried it to the forest and located a sizable chunk of snow. As I hefted a large branch to the curb, I glanced over at him. He stood crouched over the snow, patting it ever-so-softly. I heard his sweet voice:

It’s ok wittle biwrdy. It’s ok. Oh wittle biwrdy. Sweet wittle biwrdy.

He paused for a moment and then dashed off to fashion a sword out of a twig.

After we’d worked for 30 minutes, a neighbor drove by. She rolled down her window and said, We’ll be right back to help you.

She rolled her window back up before I had a chance to lob back my,

Oh-don’t-worry-about-it-we’re-fine-I-don’t-want-to-steal-your-afternoon response. 10 minutes later, she and her son returned to help us. About 40 minutes later, we’d made a considerable dent in the carnage.

Symphonies of distant chain saws serenaded as we cut and hauled, cut and hauled. Despite my extreme sadness at the considerable tree damage, the physical labor felt good. It felt good to take care of our yard, our trees.

As the kids all hauled trees, their cheeks flush with exertion and October chill, I noticed that one chain saw sounded louder. I looked over my shoulder to see another neighbor in the side yard, cutting down one of our biggest casualties. He then moved to the front yard with us, accompanied by the low, gutteral gurgle of his chain saw motor. He climbed into our big, majestic maple and cut down the down the broken limb, which measured roughly 20 feet long.

Another neighborhood child  joined us, adding considerable power with his 16-year-old muscle and energy. The younger kids ran and played a two-yard-wide game of hide-and-seek. Their laughter rang over the growing piles of trees.

A group of people gathered, collaborating to take care. Boundaries and property lines blurred, no longer relevant. I swallowed many tears. At first I cried for the trees, then I cried for the selfless generosity of neighbors, just showing up to do whatever needed to be done.

As the sun began its descent in the sky (now more spacious that it had been just days before), almost all of our clean-up was complete.  I felt lifted. Just as the many pairs of hands lifted nature’s discarded tree branches and trunks, they lifted me. Life continues to provide this lesson: pain and devastation walk right alongside heart-soaring kindness and beauty. I just want to be sure to notice both.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 8, 2011 6:30 am

    Yes, yes, yes. They are intertwined, no? At least for me. And thank you for this reminder to learn from both. xoxo

  2. November 8, 2011 8:04 am

    Came here from Lindsey’s tweet. What a beautiful reminder of hope.

  3. November 8, 2011 8:47 am

    Isn’t it amazing how a storm like that brings people together? I remember a winter storm a few years ago where we got well over a foot of snow, with 2-foot drifts, and nobody could get out. A neighbor’s daughter had a raging case of strep, and everyone on the block came together to dig tracks, so she could get to the pharmacy. It was a beautiful show of humanity and teamwork.

    Sorry about the little birdie, though. 😦 But I guess even kids have to deal with life’s harsh licks sometimes.

  4. November 8, 2011 2:24 pm

    This is lovely, as always, my dear. My heart breaks at the idea of your beloved tree cracking under the weight of the snow – with your words, I could hear it as though it were happening right outside my window. My parents lost the maple tree that had stood in front of their house since they built it when my mom was pregnant with me. But like you, they were heartened by the spirits of neighbors coming together to dig each other out (literally and metaphorically).


  5. November 8, 2011 6:17 pm

    I love this Denise. Your writing is so descriptive. I could hear the crunch of snow underfoot, the crack of limbs, the whirr of chainsaws. Gorgeous photos, too.

  6. Judy permalink
    November 8, 2011 9:53 pm

    Once again. Once again, my friend. The gift you have.

  7. November 9, 2011 4:25 pm

    These are the lines that resonated with me:

    “Life continues to provide this lesson: pain and devastation walk right alongside heart-soaring kindness and beauty. I just want to be sure to notice both.”

    Such a complicated relationship and how best to reconcile both is something I grapple with everyday.

  8. November 9, 2011 8:32 pm

    wow, Denise. So much here… so much snow, so much to clear, so much to learn.


    Thank you…


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