When I went to the cabin last week, I was met with a surprise: the ground now visible. All the snow had melted, whisked away by temperatures in the 50s. Gone was the large mound that the snowplow driver had piled onto one end of the driveway—the pile I had to climb over for the past few months to get to the front door. In the backyard, the deep snow that came up to the top of the picnic table, which I thought wouldn’t melt until May at the earliest, had disappeared, exposing the table’s plastic covering blowing in the wind. And no longer did I have to gingerly step between the deep snow banks to get to the water pump.
When you don’t have to watch out for ice, slush or hidden puddles, one’s step is lighter. With the onset of the equinox, the light has changed from winter’s harsh glare to something softer. The kinnicinick that stays green all winter, that never dies, has a brighter tinge to it (above). I can feel something opening up in the world and in me.
But with the snow’s clearing, I could see the destruction and damage from the windstorm a few weeks ago. One neighbor lost 20 trees in what another neighbor estimated were 100 mph winds—a microburst of power that pulled pine trees out by the roots, sent decades-old trees crashing to the ground.
Everywhere I walked they lay silently on the forest floor and blocked paths and roads. Their huge root systems were exposed, tangled up in soil and rocks. In their hasty descent to earth, some trees had taken others down with them or sheared off their branches. Some still standing were leaning precariously, waiting for the next big windstorm to hasten their demise.
Some of these downed trees were probably 100 years old and had stood in that spot for decades, weathering snows, rains, floods, the birth of new trees and the death of old ones. And within a matter of minutes they had been yanked from their tall upright positions to being prone on the ground—from life to death with no warning. What did that feel like?
I can’t know, but I paused before each fallen tree, trying to gauge this loss. I took in the enormity of the tree, the complexity of its branches and its now abject position. I couldn’t just walk by. I needed to acknowledge their deaths, their sudden downfall and my utter sadness at the absence of these once living beings.