The Grace of a Falling Tree

Learning to appreciate the gifts of what didn’t happen

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

I woke up at 3am to the sound of something crashing down. Not good, I thought. I got up and looked outside to see what might have happened. 

We are getting a lot of rain here in northern California right now, and the grounds are getting saturated. Trees come crashing down. 

My neighbor’s tree came down two weeks ago just touching my roof. Two small trees had caught the larger tree as it came down, saving my roof, my house, and maybe even me.

 All the neighbors came together, with kindness and support for each other.

I have been so very grateful.

 I have written before about dodging bullets, and the bullets coming ever faster and more frequently as we age. This falling tree was not the bullet with my name on it. Not yet.

So there I was this morning at 3am. It was raining pretty hard, it was dark, and I couldn’t really see what happened. I didn’t see any obvious damage to any property around me. Back to bed I went, deciding I wouldn’t really be able to see anything until the light of morning. After a bit, I was able to go back to sleep.

I woke up, got dressed, and got myself ready to face what might have happened. I looked in front of the house, where my neighbor’s tree had fallen weeks ago. All looked ok there.

 I made my way to the back of the house and the property there, property that is on a fairly steep hill.

There it was. A very tall, huge Monterey Pine had come down, across the hill, falling onto a small fence and another smaller tree on my property. It looked once again as if the smaller tree and the fence had cushioned the fall. These small trees are taking care of me lately. It brings me to tears. 

I looked a bit longer to see what I could see of all that had happened. I took a deep breath, came inside and sat down with another cup of coffee, continuing to breathe deeply. Feeling the moment. Feeling the shock, and the blessing of how this tree had come down without hurting anyone. Without hurting anything as far as I could tell. 

Maybe I will name this my Meditation On A Falling Tree.

I left a message for the arborist who had just over a week ago come out to prune several oak trees for me. Oak trees that I had been planning to get pruned this summer, but thought better of it since my neighbor’s tree that had fallen was an oak. Better to do this earlier,I had reasoned, to prevent any further possible catastrophes. 

I had also asked the arborist, when he had come to prune the oaks, about this particular pine tree that fell last night. He had responded that there may be a chance of some of the branches or the tree itself falling, but that it would not hit anything. Less to worry about. 

Continuing to breathe and calm myself, I sent another message to this arborist this morning. He will be coming out today to assess the situation, once the rain lets up enough. Ok, that’s taken care of for the moment.

I then look outside and see my neighbor’s sons working on something in the area where our properties meet. I walked up there, and lo and behold, a cedar tree that I just got an estimate for (also for pruning) had lost one of its significantly larger branches. I had just received the estimate yesterday for pruning this tree and had written back that I wanted to book them to do the work when they could fit me into their schedule. (The arborist who pruned my oaks did not have the equipment to handle this one particular large cedar, which needed one of those bucket trucks.) I was ready to schedule the work with this other company as soon as possible. 

Clearly this one branch could not wait. 

This huge branch had fallen in my neighbor’s driveway. It had lightly touched her car, but again, no damage was done. Unbelievable. Unbelievable. 

This lovely neighbor of mine (we fairly recently started having monthly happy hours together, now that we are both retired and have time to actually get to know each other more) and I both stood there, watching her sons saw the large branch into smaller pieces and clean things up. Shaking our heads, we talked about the importance of laughter (as in ending the year with a true bang.)

We are the same age, she having turned 70 this month and I following close behind her, turning 70 this coming April. Aging, we said to each other, reminds us to laugh when we can, and be grateful for gifts. And to remember to look for and see those gifts all around us. 

This incident could have been so much worse. No one was hurt. No damage was done. And sweet connections happened on New Year’s Eve day among us all. This may be the only face to face contact that I have today. Hugs were exchanged. What treasures these were. I felt cared about and cared for. I felt less alone. I felt the love of neighbors and friends. 

What gifts that these trees have given me this season. 

The gift of being saved from any injury, both myself and anyone else. The gift of no major damage having been done to anyone’s property. The gift of neighbors coming together in crisis to be there with each other. The gift of feeling less alone in the world. The gift of realizing that we have blessings each and every day if we look around us. 

Life can be hard. There is pain and suffering and loss. All part of the journey. And there is caring. There are small everyday miracles and there is community. 

Today, I am grateful for the gifts and blessings. For the miracles. For the hands reaching out to be there in support and comfort. For neighbors. For friends. For love, in all of its various wonderful forms. For life. In all of its bittersweetness. 

The crashing trees, the small trees that catch them and cushion the blows.

 The suffering that life can bring and the friends that catch us and cushion us from these blows of life. 

The grace that enables us to see another day. To live another precious day on this earth. 

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