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Last year, we lived in broken rooms for months, after the oak tree fell on our house. The wear and tear on our health called me to action. We moved to a farm.

“It’s just like a neighborhood,” a fellow farmer said. “Our yards are just bigger.”

This Fourth, my daughter and I watched fireworks from the outdoor bench made from the oak. The broad fields needed to raise hay for cows and horses gave us the perfect nighttime view. Farm 1, Farm 2 and Farm 3 launched their colorful bursts with rhythmic skill. Farm 4 struggled to orchestrate a continual barrage.

Country folk sure seem to like their celebrations. This one singular night freed us. This Independence Day, we called our farm, home.

Last Fourth of July

A year ago, I hunkered down onto my porch chair, and picked up my fiction’s first draft, proud of its thick pages. Morning became lunch became afternoon. Thunder grumbled the sky. My dog Hubble begged me to come in, as if to remind me to rejoin the family.

Slanted rain shot through the air. I loved a good storm. Potato salad could pivot into baked potatoes. Strawberry ice cream into shortcake. Hubble wandered out again. He hates storms.

Continuing to read, my manuscript dampened. Hubble meandered out a third time as thunder boomed. I caved to an old dog and his nerves. I went inside.

Five minutes later, the 140-year old oak, the tree I never thought would fall, fell. The initial crack came from roots snapping like a tent’s covering in high winds. Branches layered the side of our three stories. Summer leaves arced around the back. The tree literally wrapped itself around our house.

Maybe my heart pounded. I heard no noise. I felt no thing. All that mattered were my teens upstairs.

“Girls, get downstairs.” Tinkerbell the Timid tracked my movements. “Take the animals.”

We huddled in the basement, one daughter calling adult siblings, the other, praying friends. I called 911. I panicked over electricity meeting water, propane lines meeting air. 

My closet resembled the wardrobe from C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, a gaping hole leading to our outside forest. Water spouted in the center of our bed. Clothes oozed down the outside of the second floor to the main level, as if styled for a swank photo shoot.

Family Proves to be Life-Giving

My adult children and teens jumped into rescue mode, instinctively going for the important. One uncovered her sisters’ adoption documents; the other, the precious necklace my mother had passed on to me. Another child recovered family photos, while the others covered furniture. The emergency teams declared the house safe. This day, the mother needed the mothering.

In a great attestation of life, my family gathered around the table as we always do. Despite our new three-story indoor water features, we savored Marco’s pizza and the pause from activity. Funny how people brave their trials with the ordinary.

This is what family is, biological, adopted or friended. This is what family does. We gather. We cover each other’s backs, even as we differ on many fronts. We show up in joy and heartache. Given our family core values, we respond with laughter and humor, a life-giving non-perishable in an onslaught of cataloging perishables.

Then Night Descended

We had no master bedroom or lights. We couldn’t live in the basement, as buckets and large bowls caught rain from the rooftop. Left with no choice, my husband slept on a couch on the main, I on another, the dogs and cats surrounding me.

Scattered rains haunted us. Cracks of lightning tightened our shoulders. At 10 pm, my soul awoke to replay. Had this really happened? Dear God, I need a break here. What next?

I pressed past the brain loop to pray for one daughter, her fear of storms connected to her orphanage days. Prayed for the other’s avoidance issues. A small win in a long day, my intact manuscript and Kindle were unearthed by my son from the wreckage. I distracted my thoughts with reading.

On July 6, I’d sifted through debris on the ground level. A massive limb reamed the chair I’d been sitting in, the metal reduced to five-inches tall. I got what I call “a peck on the shoulder.” I leaned into something deeper. Look at the mail, this nudge seemed to say.

Mail? Really? I ignored the thought for two days. Circling the chaos, I flitted, not sure where to stick and stay. Somehow on July 7, I heeded or needed the nudge. Maybe both.

The Smallest Thing Encourages in Dramatic Events

The mail had delivered a book I’d ordered ‘pre-fall.’ The title had attracted me: “Praying from the Gut,” by Steven James. However, when I one-clicked, I didn’t read the description: “an honest prayer journal for teens.” What? I needed help for me, a woman three years past AARP age, not for one navigating hormones and peer pressure.

Life Interjects the greatest of ironies during the wildest of times. I ran down the content’s page. Everything from “when i’m stressed out” to “when life sucks” pertained to me. Apparently, this old lady had teen angst. So, I wrote from July to September in a teen journal–without one acne outbreak.

July 7, 2019: “There’s a hole in the sky where my old oak’s canopy used to be. The sunrise shone there for the first time. Life passes so quickly, Lord. I googled 1879, the year this tree might have sprouted. The Zulu wars had started. I don’t even know what those are. When the tree fell, the bees veining the bark were released. The Queen was killed. The bees still swarm searching for her, for where they belong. Help all those today who are seeking home, those lost or imprisoned or devastated by carnage or barred in cages in Thailand, find their ways to safe places.”

Home. A powerful word, a powerful longing. Home is our people, present or not. It is the hope of being in their presence again. It is being safe.

How is home being opposed in your life? How are you struggling to find it?

Thanks to Mario Beducci for sharing their work on Unsplash.

2 comments on “Finding Home: A Year after the Tree Nearly Killed Me

  1. Daniel Shoaf says:

    Beautiful as always, my sister!

  2. Heather Smith says:

    I hung onto every word of this. I knew parts of the story, but you make the reader part of it with this piece. Well done. So happy you have found “home” where you are.

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