The sound probably lasted for less than a second, but it seemed to go on for hours, followed by a resounding thud that brought the cat clawing and squirming into the bed, underneath the fitted sheet. For some reason known only to Nature, I drifted off to sleep and -- as is the way with such things -- had no memory of that sound until Joe looked out the window at dawn and said, "We lost the big spruce."
The spruce. The blue spruce. I could have wept. In fact, I think I did just a bit.
That blue spruce was the towering monument on our property. When we moved here more than 20 years ago, it was already master of all it surveyed -- at least 75 feet tall with a trunk as thick as a whiskey barrel. It was truly a noble creature, but that ocean-borne banshee wind was mightier.
The spruce. There it lay, with the only thing to recommend its fall the fact that it went in the right direction, taking with it only a junior (40 feet tall) member of its species, the barren pear, and the western hemisphere of an ancient apple tree.
Had it fallen toward the east, we might have been crushed in our bed; to the north, it would have crashed into the neighbor's weather tower; farther south, it would have broken through the upstairs windows of our studio.
Ah, the stunning adaptability of human beings! As the days passed, we began to see a few positive benefits to weigh against the loss. We will have firewood for several winters to come, our vegetable garden will get more daylight during our all too brief growing season, there's plenty of wood left over for Joe's projects.
Fast forward to last week ... when Tobey, the lawn man-cum-landscaper-cum tree remover, arrived with one assistant, two chain saws, a shiny red pick-up, a calm and stolid black pooch, and a truck about the size of New Hampshire. Within a couple of hours, the spruce was cut into manageable chunks, the firewood stacked, the lawn cleared, and the detritus hauled away for chipping.
And now only the stump is standing, 8 feet of crumbling bark and jagged raw splinters, to serve as a silent testimonial: Even the mightiest must fall, by and by. And for some reason I take comfort in that.