Withstanding The Wind

At 4:00 am yesterday morning Mr. MoSop and I had our own Clement Clark Moore moment, i.e. “when out on [our] lawn there arose such a clatter, we sprang (sprung?) from our bed to see what was the matter”. In our case, we flew to the kitchen and turned on the floodlights where “what to our wondering eyes should appear” our back fence was no longer standing here! There were also plenty of flying objects in the air, but none of them were jolly or remotely resembling tiny reindeer. All of this “clatter” was the cause and effect of a serious wind storm hitting Northern Utah. It was shaking our house “like a bowl full of jelly” and definitely giving us “a fright”.

Since there wasn’t anything we could do about the destruction, we simply went back to bed huddling under the covers and trying (unsuccessfully) to grab a few more hours of sleep as we listened to the howling and wailing outside and occasional thumping of who-knows-what against the house. At 6 am we finally gave up and got ready for the day. The wind continued to huff and puff and attempt to blow our house down. The news reported gusting of 100 miles per hour in our neighborhood, and informed us that speed “is the same as a Category 2 hurricane”. But, at this point we were oblivious to any real danger. We were focused on going about our rushed morning routine, getting our daughter to school and getting ourselves to work on time. Sure, the wind was an annoyance, and we would have to figure out what to do about the fence, but we felt insulated in our little house. Unfortunately, the storm would prove to be a bigger deal.

Mr. Mo rushed off to get Little Bear to school, and I puttered around until 7:45. As I backed the car out of the garage, I glanced over at our front lawn and noticed a disturbing sight. The ground around our 40+ year old spruce tree was moving – undulating would be the best term – like some rodent of unusual size was burrowing a new hole. I realized, our tree was being pummeled so hard from the relentless wind, it was in the final throes of a battle for its life…and it was losing. A handful of thoughts sped through my mind “Help! I need Help!, “If I tried to tie it to the house, would that save it, Or…would it just pull the house down with it?” “Who should I call?”, “Is it going to ricochet the other way and fall on the house? OK. I need to get out of here!” No sooner had I backed out of the driveway, the climax of the battle played out in my rear-view window as I watched our beautiful gentle giant topple.

Our Fallen Giant

And there it was. Uprooted and sprawled out across our yard and most of the street. Tragically and utterly defeated. As I was snapping a photo, a city truck came by. The driver told me they would be getting to it as soon as possible and clearing the way for traffic. I was soon to learn there were hundreds of trees in our neighborhood and across the state that did not survive. Our tree was just one more statistic. But, I still grieved for this one. As large and strong and solid as my tall evergreen appeared, it’s root ball was simply too shallow in comparison to withstand nature’s opposition.

I recalled a talk by Elder David B. Wirthlin once about trees, and roots:

Relatively mild gusts of wind blow some trees down. . . because they are not well anchored. Contrast this with giant oak trees that have deep root systems that can extend two and one-half times their height. Such trees rarely are blown down regardless of how violent the storms may be. [We] should be like oak trees . . Our foundations should be solid and deep-rooted so we can withstand the winds of temptation, false doctrine, adversity, and the onslaught of the adversary without being swayed or uprooted. – Deep Roots, Oct. 1994

There were a lot of lessons learned from this storm. Here are a few:

1. Always keep your car gas tank half full. Gas pumps don’t work without power. Duh! Seems obvious, but I hadn’t thought about that until I realized I was almost out of gas on my way to work and out of luck. (thankfully, I made it to the next city where there was a station with power and gasoline, but I had to wait in a long line of cars to fill up)

Avoid This!

2. The phrase “We’ll clean it up” may not actually mean what you think it means.  Right after my tree fell down a friendly city worker pulled up who was driving around assessing the neighborhood. He told me to go ahead and leave for work and not worry about the tree because they would eventually get a crew out to “clear the road and clean it up”. In my (naive / delusional) mind I imagined that meant the magic city fairies would come take my tree away and make my yard “spic and span” in Disney-esque fashion. When I returned that night, this is what I found:

"All Cleaned Up"

3. Make hay while the sun shines

Or in other words, when the power has gone out over a wide area and it is predicted to be out for quite some time, it would be a wise idea to go find your flashlight and other essential supplies as soon as you get home from work instead of feeding the dog and inspecting home damage so that you will not find yourself stumbling around. Enough said

4.  Having a flashlight app on your cell phone is very handy!

5. Using the handy-dandy flashlight app will drain the cell phone battery quickly!

6. Keep your Cell Phone Fully Charged. Note to self: You never know when you are going to be relying solely on your cellular phone for emergency contact with the world and have no way to recharge.

7. Posting A Facebook Update about your crises brings out the best in people! Immediate offers of food, lodging and chainsaws

8. Facebook Can Bite, or, Avoid Throwing A Pity Party Without All The Facts– OK, here comes the most embarrassing lesson of my whole crises. I hesitate to even mention it because I’m so mortified. But, since it was probably one of my most important lessons from all of this, I’ll face my shame. When I arrived from work and saw the image of my yard (see #2), and my vision of “cleaned up” had just been shattered, I was angry and frustrated. To add insult to injury, my house was only 42 degrees inside, I couldn’t find my flashlight or my mittens (see #4) there appeared to be nothing in the house I could make for dinner that didn’t require my microwave or oven, and I felt very sorry for myself so I posted the photo from my phone in #2 with the following status:

Our new landscaping. The City didn’t take anything away, they just chopped up the tree and piled it all in our yard!! Great. Are you kidding me?! The house has no power nor phone line. It just got very dark and it is very cold in here. The wind also just started shaking the house again!! Oh, and My cell phone battery is almost dead. Good grief.

I received many responses of sympathy for my pity party. But, eventually it was time for me to come off of my proud cloud and be humbled. Neighbor 1 responded “[CV] and his sons were over there cutting your tree…” and Neighbor 2 enlightened me further “Your tree was blocking half the road until [C]and his crew came to cut it up. Thanks [C]!”

Oh. Well, now I feel like a total toadstool.

It appears I had been the recipient of a random act of kindness by a neighbor who wanted to assist the city getting the road clear faster and serve our family in our time of need. I didn’t have all the facts, and now I’d gone and blabbed how ungrateful I was. I fear I will be forever known as the neighborhood brat now. “Remember to Be Grateful in All Things”. Check.

9. Give A Helping = Get Happy I was blessed to have my power return by 10 PM. My friend down the street did not have power, so we invited her for a sleepover at our place and it made our blessing that much sweeter to be able to share it. 🙂

10. Count Your Many Blessings – name them one by one. Everything could always be worse. So many people experienced so much more devastation than our family did. When I think what would have happened if the tree had fallen the other way and taken out our living room (and my piano!) I shudder. I am also so grateful that my power came on so that we could stay at home in our own beds, and share a bed with someone else. I am so grateful no one was seriously hurt, and so many people reached out and did good for others during the crises. In the end, no matter the crises, there is One who can always provide peace.

And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said . . . Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. – Mark 4:39

READ “Part #2”: Sabbath of Service In Bountiful

This Post was Featured in The Deseret News 12/5/2011


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