SANDY GOES BOOM

Time was when Sandy just went “Arf.” Not this time. I was in California attending the Oakdale Climbers Festival (more on that another time) when the storm moved into the New York/New Jersey area. We were lucky. Our house had electricity (the only one in our neighborhood), and, although one land line was out, the other one worked, the one that carried our internet connection. Another boon—no TV for a while, although more pictures of the damage would have been interesting based on what I saw when I was in California.

More than interesting. The devastation in the Rockaways and down the Jersey Shore is frightening. Estimates are of between 20,000 and 40,000 homeless. Streets have been covered with sand dunes. And if you can’t get to your job, how do you pay to fix the hole in your roof? We were lucky.

With the NY airstrips covered with water and rocks, I couldn’t get home until Thursday night. Oddly, the flight was only half full. Three of our neighbor’s trees, two large oaks and a cherry, had fallen into our driveway and yard. One nestled against the house but didn’t do any damage as far as I can tell. They had been sitting on a slab of rock all these years with no more than six or eight inches of dirt and root as an anchor (how solid is your anchor?). The root mass that tilted up was about twenty-five by five feet. They reminded me of fallen trees one sees in the Sierra Nevada from time to time as biology finds a way, for a time, to habituate glaciated granite. And then there are the trees, usually small but not always, that jut from thin cracks on Yosemite’s walls.

Last year we had a snow storm this time of year, the time of year, that is, before the leaves had fallen from the trees, and the weight of the snow on the leaves and branches cracked limbs and felled trees all over town, many of them in Central Park. We lost several then and over the past few years some others have toppled from wind whipping through—some of them older, some half dead already. What can you say? All this pruning and falling lets more sunlight in. Some younger trees are already in place to take advantage, but I doubt that I will see them reach their full height. Just as I doubt I will see the younger grandchildren reach full height. Maybe I will if I can avoid hurricanes and wind storms and the odd bolt of lightning that has always seemed to me to be the most arbitrary of life stoppers. I do like the energy of a good thunderstorm, though. Again, when they roll and boom through our neighborhood in the Bronx off the Hudson River it reminds me of afternoon storms in the Sierra Nevada. In the mountains the sun will usually peek through the clouds in the west before it gets dark.

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