Well I thought I’d start this party of with a bang, so grab yourself a cup of coffee and settle in for the story of How a Drunk Driver Saved Me from My Tree.
As I’ve briefly mentioned, I recently spent several years grappling with a serious illness. I don’t want to spend too much time digging through it all here (don’t worry, I’ll be processing those experiences once I’ve had the time and distance to embark on that phase of my healing), but you’ll need to know, for the purposes of this story, that I spent 2 years confined to my bed, which had been moved to the living room, I guess thinking that would help me feel more human, like maybe I could keep one foot in the door to the real world or something.
Well I think it did, to an extent, because it meant I was able to spend time exploring what grew to be my greatest comfort on some of those really dark days: my birds. In my front yard at the time, I’ve got 2 tall maples and one ash, which the woodpeckers really liked, and I always got a kick out of, because what would life be like if your main activity all day was smashing your head against a tree violently, rapidly? I mean. . .
And I’ve got these beautiful flowering dogwood bushes that the cardinals love (and I know some people are bored by them, because they’re pretty common here, but I don’t get it—I mean how often do you ever see anything so RED just naturally occurring, in nature? Naturally?).
In any case, this little front yard bird sanctuary ended up growing to become one of the most peaceful, pleasant distractions from some of the more unpleasant symptoms of my illness at the time. To the extent that there were entire days that would go by in relative comfort as I ticked away the visits from my feathered friends: the early morning robins with their soft, lilting chirps, the blue jays that rove in packs, squawking like the world is burning down, the cute cardinal couple that stop by for dinner every evening at dusk. I love them, and I know this might sound silly, but they meant a lot more than just birds to me—they represented a beauty that existed independent in the world, a lightness that came to me, to visit my space, to sing these incredibly complex, diverse, strange and beautiful songs that brought me glimpses of happiness I thought beyond my reach.
So imagine my surprise when one day, out of the blue, there was a sudden flutter of wings and the birds that had been previously enjoying a peaceful snack suddenly burst into flight—which isn’t completely unheard of, especially when Jim is out walking his greyhound (an old sweetheart named Nettie, he’d rescued). But this was even more insane, I mean the squawking, it was like someone was under attack, and so I was confused and also concerned, because should I be worried about something?
Well yeah, it turns out I was right to be tweaked, because about 5 seconds later a rusted out bronco hopped the curb, swerved half onto the front lawn, and with a high, whining engine-rev, careened into my ash tree with a crunch that made my stomach drop out from under me. What I remember most is the long rumbling crack that shivered all the way up the trunk of the tree and splintered into one of the branches as the tree slowly crumpled, inch by inch, crackling toward the lawn where its massive trunk landed with a deep thud I felt in my chest. I was just lucky the tree fell away.
I don’t remember getting up, or calling the police, or stepping into the front yard, toward the wreckage, or the conversation I had with the driver, who was somehow unscathed, no blood or anything I could see, but was slurring his words pretty heavily. Turns out I heard from the cops later that he was under the influence, which is just a scary reminder of some of those things that are happening out there that aren’t really on our radar until they make a surprise appearance by crashing into our lives.
I know it’s obvious, and we all know this, but please if anyone is reading this, just take a second to refocus, remind yourself to stay safe when it comes to alcohol.
Always have a designated driver or take a cab
PLEASE have your friends’ backs
Pick up your kids if they need you
Pick up your parents if they need you
Pick up humans if they need you
Be good to each other and be safe
Well after everything, all the chaos, I now realized I was looking at one hell of a clean-up. I mean the front yard was a disaster, a downed trunk that could weigh anywhere from 2-20 TONS, and I wasn’t in any particularly great shape to be dual-wielding chainsaws any time soon. All it took was a phone call to find the best tree service Cedar Rapids has to offer. Joe answered the phone over at CR Tree Care. I guess I called because they said they had 24-hour tree emergency service, and I said well if this isn’t a tree emergency I’d like to know what is. And they were great, on the spot as quick as they said, and took all the pressure off me (which was a welcome relief after the particularly intense day before).
The interesting thing though, is what I found out after the crew came out for inspection: that the tree had been unhealthy for a while now. There’d been some damage to the roots on one side, which had grown steadily weaker while the other side had been growing mostly fine, slowly and invisibly skewing the tree’s balance over so many years. It turns out I’d been lucky, because after a few years, the roots could have been weak enough that the entire tree could have been taken down by a particularly torrential storm. . . falling directly in the direction of my house. In fact, the impact of the car hitting the tree had been just enough to trigger the fault, but redirect it safely away from the house.
So there you have it. The story of how a drunk driver saved me from my tree.
I’m thankful that I’m ok, that the driver was ok, that my home is ok.
But I still miss my tree.
Sorry. Sad. Ok, then I’m going to wrap up the party here, let’s do that.
It’s my belief that one of the best things we can do as human beings is to view every single moment as an opportunity to learn how to be a better version of the person we are. At least, that’s My Life Project. So once all the chaos and the intense emotions have passed, I choose to go mining for what I like to call: “Golden Nuggets”—little pieces of insight I’ve gained, opportunities for growth and learning, potential pathways to better decisions, to greater awareness of who I am in relation to my surroundings.
So here you go, Gold Nugget #1 (and a really healthy thing to remember whenever disaster, tragedy, grief is in our midst):
Sometimes you won’t know the good thing happened until you see what the bad thing really would’ve been.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned for further tales of Adventure. Tragedy. Love. Victory. Joy. And whatever else I can cram into the internet.
‘Til next time.