The wind had picked up. I shut the lights and peered out the back window, my night vision returning. The night sky had darkened to the Southeast, a haze of low, black clouds bearing down. I turned away, thinking as I climbed the stairs to bed that maybe it was a trick of the eye, with the streetlights from the the Southwest creating the effect. That it was night creeping in.
The lights of our homes do that, don’t they? When the darkness descends, they hold the outer world at bay. Much like the fireplace, the hearth at the center of the circle.
That’s why I like the wind so much — it intrudes with its sound and feel, particularly when the windows of our old house rattle as the pressure ratchets up, then drops. Reminding us it’s all out there.
Lately though, the maples around our old house have been reminding us their own way. A couple of years ago my brother and his family came for an afternoon’s visit before driving to Vermont. One of our trees dropped a 3-inch-diameter limb on his parked car shattering the back window into tempered-glass grapenuts. His family left in a rental, and he stuck around a night to deal with getting the window replaced the next day.
Just this past winter, in early March, we had a heavy wet snow here accompanied by some high winds. One of our trees dropped a large limb in my back neighbor’s yard, another dropped one on our patio, managing to block the driveway in the process.
Time to do some trimming. A few weeks later, we had an arborist come in for a look, to see what needed doing. I asked him if the big red maple at the back of the property may be saved. He answered me before I even finished: No it’s a hazard, he said. It’s got to go.
I’ve had vivid dreams lately and some I even remember when I wake up, which has become less common as I’ve gotten older. More than anything this sense of a dream I can’t recall reminds me of the present-ness of real life, how we’re all in the now, a circle of light from which the past slips.
This morning I woke from a dream, deep in the richness of feelings it evoked in me. Unfortunate since the feelings were bad. Several insecurities were there, making a day of it, and manifested in shadows that looked like people I’ve known, in situations too bizarre to be real, too real to be discounted.
I awakened and began to retreat into myself before I even sat up, then realized the dream hadn’t actually happened, and what a gift of perspective. Though I had to take some stock, and make sure the limb hadn’t dropped closer than I thought.
One morning recently, the tree crew showed up, and the tree came down. In one day it was there, and then it was gone. As piece after piece fell to the chainsaw, we could see the tree was rotten in key spots, though it was a lot more solid in places we hadn’t expected it to be. The crew chipped most of the wood, and hauled away the logs. But when they were gone, we found they left one solid, round fireplace-length limb section in the driveway.
The morning the tree crew came I had been up early, to remove some parts of our fence to give access to the tree. When I finished the light was coming up and I took some photos of the tree, top to bottom, crouching to get it in frame. A death mask. I had suddenly realized the tree would soon pass out of the circle of light, and live only in our memory.
It’s important to remember the rot. And it’s worth keeping a solid piece or two, to help keep the darkness at bay.