It dropped down a couple miles away, tracking northwest towards the big river. Winds topped 130 miles an hour. No lives lost, no major home damage, just a hay barn and a bunch of trees. Biggest loss was a multi-trunked bur oak, the biggest of its stems maybe five feet in diameter. Pulled out by the root ball and split down the middle. Even on its side, the crown still reached thirty feet in the air. In places you could walk under the fallen trunk without stooping. The tree was big when my grandfather worked the farm in the thirties. Then, it was the only tree in the bottom, never cut because of its forked base.
I walk, painting trees that’ll need to come down, sooner or later. Cutting paths between small clearings, cutting paths two windfallen trees, sometimes two or three piled on top of each other. I cut for an hour or so at a time, then turn the saw off and sit and wonder at the damage. Even with all of it- there’s still squirrels chattering in the trees, gathering seeds of fallen trees. Juncos dart through the crowns, nuthatches pick through tree trunks for bugs. I jump a woodcock in the brush.
I had been meaning to do a bunch of work on the property, anyway. Cut some of the old-growth autumn olive that had invaded the bottom. Cut some of the trash trees- sycamore, elm, river birch- open up the canopy, plant more bur and red oaks, more walnut, pecan. The uplands could’ve used work, too- mostly high-graded hickory woodlot, fescue fields, edges growing up in cedar and thorny honeylocust. When I heard the news I bought the chainsaw and a boatload of seedlings- black and chinquapin oak, black cherry, native shortleaf pine.
Spent all day sawing; it’s easy to get overwhelmed. About four o’clock in the afternoon I dropped, exhausted from cutting crowns and building brush piles. I laid down on the bare loamy earth, dotted with grape fern. This morning, you couldn’t have seen the sky from here.