Friday, May 12, 2006

Relationship with the Sentinel Tree

Anyone who knows her understands her love/hate relationship with the tree in her back yard. Her house was built in 1937, so that tree was probably residing right there for many years prior to the construction, if it's height and circumference are any indication.

Southern Indiana is the storm mecca of the United States, especially in the early Spring. A day without a storm is like a day of frickin' peace, and those do not come around often in her vicinity. To make the unnerving tornado sirens blasting every other day even worse, after the weather imps unleash their fury by sending wind and hail and deadly lightning (lightning is always described by the local pseudometerologists as deadly before, during and after a tornado-spawning storm from Hell rumbles and growls and roars through) she has to go into the back yard and pick up the large branches and numerous smaller sticks and stack them by the alley for the City to dispose of.

The tree has taken on a personality of its own now, having lived with her in-residence for the past twenty years, and stands there regally just begging for another storm so he can drop a few hundred limbs in the yard and watch her break her back picking them up, quietly, its top gently swaying in the higher-level breezes gently meandering through, an innocent looking, gentle giant guarding and shading her back yard, providing a cool place to sit in the summer to enjoy outdoor meals and cold beer. The Sentinel Tree.

She piles limbs up, admiring the blue sky, taking a deep breath of fresh air, then goes inside and stands by the sink in the kitchen, enjoying a cold glass of lemonade. Glancing absently to the west out the window above the sink, she squints, squats down a little to get a better look and mutters, "I'll be damned." Sure enough, a new bank of dark clouds is rolling onto the horizon. Within the hour, she finds herself living in her basement once more as the tornado sirens blast and the storm blows in and blows out to the east, leaving a perfectly cloudless sky.

This time out to collect the sticks and limbs she kicks at the tree and says, "Dammit! Stop throwing all your trash down here! Stupid tree!"

Another monster storm cuts through her city that night and another limb gathering session is necessary in the morning. The pile by the alley has grown in two days, three times the original size. On the last pass, with arms full of wood, extended to drop the latest tree trash, she pulls it back toward her chest and turns slowly, head back in order to see the top of that old tree and smiles.

The tree stops swaying for a moment, the smart-ass little smirk wiped off his face, studying her. She can feel how perplexed he is when she carries her load up close to the back of her house and drops it there. With determination, she stomps to the stack by the alley, gathers an armful of sticks and purposefully marches to the back of the house and adds those to the new pile.

There is a change in the personality of the tree as he watches her make one trip and then another and another, recollecting the trash he so mirthfully dropped on her lawn everyday for the mere pleasure of watching her gather it all up.

When she has converted the branches from the Alley Pile to the Just-Behind-The-House-Pile, she gathers up four bricks and makes a little wall, pulls up a lawn chair and settles in, taking the time to deliberately break the pieces into nearly identical lengths, stacking them between the self-made brick walls. The tree watches with curiosity, then feigns indifference, then watches some more.

She stands up and admires her little kindling pile. That evening she goes shopping and comes home with a chimenea. She settles it into place in the bare spot in the back yard. The tree drops an errant stick, obviously as a test and this time she says, "Thank you, beautiful, Tree."

Breaking the stick and putting the pieces on her impressive woodpile, she mutters her new motto: "If life keeps giving you sticks, go buy a chimenea."

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