The Ice Storm

(image via Rose Elena)

(image via Rose Elena)

It has been a long winter in New Hampshire. The weather has been tough, the days cold, and even now, in mid-April, the mornings are 30 degrees. This makes for a weariness of spirit that is palpable on many people's faces.

Last December we also had an ice storm, which left my town without power for ten days. During the darkest time of the year, that's ten days with no heat, electricity, hot water or light. I am a creature of my comforts, and it was a difficult struggle. For a few days it was fun, but as each day rolled into the next, and we all got dirtier, colder and more worried, the winter took it's toll. My daughter told me to think of it as a test of my character, and I thought, "If this is a test, then I am getting a solid C minus".

The day after the storm had massive tree loss as well. People looked out on their properties and gardens, many of whom had lovingly tended their land for many years, but now saw total devastation. One friend, who had painstakingly developed a cross-country ski center over four decades, had it all destroyed in one night. The phrase, "Looked like a bomb went off" was said more times than I can remember. The old timers commented that not since the hurricane of 1938 had the town suffered so much damage. The sound of cracking tree limbs for the days following was like gunfire going off again and again. It made everyone a bit jumpy.

Our home, a farm house over 230 years old, with massive pines and maples, was significantly affected. The days following the storm we hauled out 14 dump trucks of tree limbs, and that was only the start. I couldn't get to my barn, the limbs were so deep. When two feet of snow fell a week later, it was almost a relief, because now the ground was covered. But Spring brought a melt, and with it the reality of a clean-up that will take some many years to complete.

Time and money, of course, can right many a problem. This year is no different. The checks are being written, and my bones are quite weary at times from all the hauling and raking. Plus, we've had a lot of help. But still, the loss has been significant, and sometimes my heart breaks a little when I see the damage done to a two-hundred-year-old maple that was my favorite tree. It was a particular beauty, with massive limbs that came out at right angles to the trunk and then arched skyward 60 feet. Some of those great branches are now gone, snapped from the weight of the ice. My garden, a source of great pride and creative effort over the years, was also damaged, and many of my favorite shrubs and plants have been destroyed.

Gardeners like to comment with any loss, "It's an opportunity to try something new", but truth be told, it is a bit too fresh these days for optimistic cliche. That said, I was moved today by the haiku of the poet Masahide, who wrote, "Since my house burnt down / I now have a better view / of the rising moon."

Tonight is a clear, cold sky and I can see the moon rising through the now open woods. There is a great horned owl calling for a mate from a broken tree. After a long day, this moon and sound, makes me feel better. In the end some things never change, even in the midst of so much of it. One is this. We take our hope where we can, the best that we can, knowing that nature and time will always bring us another chance to try again.