musings from Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington ... home of The Write Spot

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

a tree worth hugging...

"I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree."* Yes, it's true. I'm a tree hugger. I've always felt a deep affinity for anything with branches. But there's a special place in my heart reserved for one particular spruce – the heroic tree that saved my family's home.

It was a sticky-hot afternoon in the summer of 1985. My three young sons and I were picking peas in our farm garden when a fierce and unexpected storm blew in across the fields. We ran for the house with rain pelting our backs. Wind ripped the door from my hands as we struggled to get inside, and then slammed the door behind us with an angry gust. We stood gasping and dripping in the middle of the room as the storm raged around us, rattling windows and battering the shingles until our little house trembled like leaves on an aspen. When the first flash of lightning split the suddenly dark sky, the answering boom of thunder seemed ominously close.

Photo by Brandon Morgan via Unsplash

The kids were frightened and so was I – I've never liked thunderstorms and this one was a doozie. But I pasted on what I hoped was a brave face, gathered them close, and told them not to worry, we would keep each other safe. I had barely formed the words when a flash of dazzling blue light and a massive BANG-crack assaulted our senses. The air around us seemed to sizzle, our ears popped, and the hairs on our arms prickled to attention. In one surreal moment, the plastic thermostat casing flew off the wall and struck my eldest son in the forehead. A trickle of blood leaked from his wound as we stood there, trembling and holding each other tight. A final gust of wind rattled the windows and the storm roared away as quickly as it had arrived.

After a quick head check and a Band-Aid for number one son, the four of us ventured outside. Instead of the usual after-storm freshness, the sharp tang of burnt wood filled the air. Lightning had found the highest point on the farm: one of three mature spruce trees in the yard. That poor tree was split from top to bottom. Wisps of smoke rose from the jagged scar and charred wood chips littered the lawn. Electricity had run to ground through the tree's roots, jumped to the plumbing that crossed the yard from well to house, burned out the water pump in the basement, and then surged through the electrical system to launch the freaky flying thermostat.

We'd had a close call. I'll always be grateful to that majestic spruce for taking the hit, because the second highest point on the farm – mere feet away from the tree – was the chimney on the roof of our beautiful little house.

Harrington House in Box Grove, Ontario circa 1990
Painting by Jorge Nascimento

I don't have a photo of my heroic spruce to share but I hope you'll enjoy this slideshow of other trees I've loved. Click on the player to start/advance the show.


Permalink: a tree worth hugging...

*Poem fragment from Trees by Joyce Kilmer.

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At 9:03 pm, Blogger Sheila Seabrook said...

Ooooh, you sent goosebumps down my spine!

At 10:12 am, Blogger Sydell Voeller said...

Wow, what a close call! Even though your tree took the hit, I bet you still miss it.

At 8:33 pm, Anonymous Susan McNicoll said...

Wow. Talk about a close call. You portrayed the scene chillingly. The tree knew you loved trees and so it sacrificed itself for you and your boys.

At 8:45 pm, Blogger Cheryl said...

I'm so glad you all felt the goosebumps! Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment. I do still miss that tree, Sydell. I miss the farm sometimes, too (although not all the work involved). But the land was sold (we were renters) and it's a subdivision now. Sad. It was such good land.

At 2:06 am, Anonymous Victoria M. Johnson said...

Hi Cheryl--
Oh, my. What a harrowing experience. Thank goodness your son was okay.


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