Object Lessons: Rantings of a Lone Pamphleteer
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Watch for Falling Trees

On Saturday, my neighbor T and I were discussing the July 4th storm damage. I was out in the muck and mosquitoes protected by a tee shirt, shorts, and a double-layer of Off. My neighbor--the big man across the alley -- T is one of those rare breeds more comfortable feeding birds than shooting them. In 90's parlance, he is my Wilson, complete in jeans, a carpenter's short apron, and red suspenders over his plaid.

"Hello fellow lumberjack!" I'd been chopping the larger branches down for transport to the front yard, when T waved me down. Putting down the axe, I spent a much needed break chatting over the fencepost, literally, and sipping icy water brought by my husband, who joined us.

T's house is directly behind ours, across a narrow alley. Our backyards face each other. According to T and Allie Mae, who watched the storm, our little ecotone of yards suffered a short downward burst -- a white out -- which bent the trees double, breaking several and uprooting one. Most fell towards the alley, which implies some kind of serious, localized something -- A cyclone? A little tendril snapping our trees like a frog's tongue?

"Squirrels were jumping out of trees..." T told me. More likely being thrown out, we agreed. "Little baby squirrels, even."

I waved him off. "Don't tell me anymore."

T's spent 30 years, he told me, building a small nature preserve -- a wild acre -- in the back of his quarter-acre. A small niche for a few suburban squirrels, blue jays, orioles, and other midatlantic wildlife. He actually commented how happy he was that we -- specifically me and Jon -- had let it go a little wild. It attracts the wildlife, having some cover. (Most neighbors aren't as happy with our little wilderness, whatever the philosophy behind it might be.)

Inevitably, the subject of Al Gore's movie came up. We'd both seen it. "You know, my first degree was in biology," he threw into the conversation at the same moment he tossed a peanut to the blue jay above us. Reaching into his carpenter's apron for another tempting meal, he continued to tell me about the losses. We discussed how the new swath of sunlight would change our yards.

Jon is happy we can have a lawn, some soft turf instead of all the wiry roots. I'm thinking butterfly garden, which will bring back the birds.

Maybe, someday, a new tree. A wollemi pine, I think. It survived the dinosaurs, and us; it might be just the thing for our vicious little weather cycles.

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