This has been a summer for rain and storms. A few weeks ago the volunteer fire department at Anmoore, just down the road, was flooded. Less significantly, several projects around this house have been delayed because of rain.
A week ago, 2:00 a.m. last Thursday to be precise, the winds hit Clarksburg. There had been warnings of thunderstorms that evening, and lightening riddled the clouds around us, but there had been only a little rain here. The storm seemed far away, and we went to bed with windows open.
Our yard is bordered on two sides by large, old Norway spruce trees. We don’t really know how old they are; they may have been planted in the 1930s, possibly earlier. They may not be as old, or as tall, as some trees in the neighborhood, but even though the ground they stand on is lower than our house’s basement floor they tower above the roof — some are as tall as 60 feet (18 meters) — and they distinctively mark our view of the part of the city that slopes toward the West Fork River below us and of the hills beyond.
Shortly after 2:00 I woke up to the sounds of wind, strong wind, the kind of wind one expects on the prairie of Illinois, and a clatter of small hail. We seemed to be surrounded by a dark, swirling cloud, and the world beyond disappeared into the cloud only a few feet away from the window. Branches whipped this way and that, seemingly trying to twist around the house. In the noise of wind, rain, and thunder I somehow missed what must have been a dramatic and very scary sound.
Later, when the storm had passed and the light of morning had arrived, I glanced out the kitchen window and noted an absence.
The missing spruce was around 50-60 feet (15-18 meters) tall, about 6 feet (1.8 meters) in circumference at the ground. Norway spruce (Picea abies) can grow as tall as 180 feet (55 meters). Clearly this one wasn’t a giant of the spruce world, but a significant tree all the same. Several smaller trees that stood in this tree’s path are no longer visible and probably no longer exist, several others that stood too close to the path now have fewer branches, and a section of our neighbor’s chain link fence is much flatter than it used to be. A large gap has opened in our view to the south. And now the task of removal will begin.