All was quiet this morning when I went for my walk, even by pre-dawn standards. The usual call of birds was replaced by the wind in the leaves. Instead of seniors in colorful pants heading to tai chi, I saw the bright petals of impatiens and black eyed susans littering the street.
Neighbors I usually nod to as they stroll with a mug of coffee in one hand and a dog leash in the other, were all business. One eye to the sky, a blue plastic baggy in his outstreched hand, a man bent low, ready to pounce when his dog finished its business.
Eight hours later, the storm had passed. The electricity was out and so were the people, in the street that is. After nearly a week of anticipation and a day bunkered inside, we were all eager to see what Irene had done. In ones and twos, wearing everything from full rain gear to shorts and T's, we made our way toward the town center. Strangers nodded and smiled, united by the power outage and curiosity. Here and there a knot of people gathered to observe a yard with mutiple limbs down, or an apple tree robbed of its harvest. Fortunately, there was very little to see. The losses were small.
This dead frog (larger than my hand) was the worst of it, until I got to the Battle Green. There, just behind the minuteman statue a group of people had gathered, pointing and taking photos. Cars stopped on the side of the road and families climbed out to get a better look.
A single, giant tree had been knocked over by Irene. It's roots, thick with mud stretched taller than the stick-of-a-man who stood leaning against them, posing for a picture. "It's all my fault. I knocked it over with one finger" he boasted, laughing. For each person who took a picture and walked on, two more arrived. There it was, what we'd all come to see, proof there had been a storm.
The tree, for its part lay in repose, like a Victorian woman on a fainting couch. It landed in the only place it could have both safely and without being an inconvenience. That's a polite tree for you.
May the trees and rivers in your neighborhood have been equally considerate.
A day later, only a spot of dirt shows where the roots were uplifted. The tree fell toward the flagpole. If it had fallen to the left or right it would have knocked down another tree and blocked one of the main streets through town. If it had falled "backward" it would have toppled the town's iconic Minuteman statue. Just a little blessing, in the midst of many.