Maybe our drought is coming to an end. It rained hard yesterday, and finally, at night, various thunderstorms converged overhead, sending sheets of rain down to our parched earth.

The weather bureau sent a number of Storm Warnings: Severe thunderstorm detected in Plainfield, traveling Northeast, 60 mph, specifying the prospective size of hail. Or else: Severe thunderstorm detected in Colrain, traveling East at 40 mph, etc. One even mentioned the possibility of a tornado. They were all traveling east (they fly out towards the ocean) and all seemed to congregate above us within one hour.

I’m afraid of big thunderstorms and take shelter in the downstairs bathroom, which has no windows. Aussie goes into the garage, I open the back door, and she jumps onto her blanket on her seat, glad to lie there even for a few hours (I leave the door open). Last night she didn’t jump down till I came out around 9 pm and told her it was all over, we were safe, she could come out now.

But it wasn’t safe for everyone. In the middle of the night I woke up to a great, tortuous tearing sound, like a crack slowed down over 5 seconds.

I held my breath, waiting for the big bang, but none came. It fell on other trees, I thought to myself. A tree had torn off its roots, and instead of smashing down on the ground it fell on other trees. I said a quick blessing that it hadn’t smashed down on the house, a serious danger given the tall beeches and sycamores that surround our home.

But it was hard to get back to sleep. Like many people, I’ve read about trees’ incredible protective and adaptive skills, not to mention methods of communication. But storms can still bring them down. And when it’s nearby I can hear the elongated crack, like something slowly and loudly tearing away from a nurturing mother, the roots that gave it life, holding it steady as it joined an adjoining community of trees. A serrated sound of goodbye.

Where did it fall? Probably below the house, where a long slope drops down into the Saw Mill River. In fact, I reminded myself, there are too many trees there now and lots of young ones can’t grow, so perhaps it’s good that the tree tore apart, giving space for something else to reach up for the yellow summer light. But that tearing sound!

Is the universe friendly? Einstein asked.

What do the trees say to that, I wondered this morning. Are they in mourning? Are they terrified? Are they traumatized by the collapse of one of their fellows? Are they counting up their leaves and branches, inventorying their resources, declaring war on wind? Are they apprehensive towards fall and winter, which brings the Nor’easters? Are they taking out insurance?

None of the above, from what I see (though tree experts may discover differently at some point). It felt like the first day of fall, but the sun still sparkled through their leaves, sending out shafts of life between their branches. The grass seemed happier than it has all summer and there were new blooms of Brown-eyed Susans.

This is not the case elsewhere. The news informs me of impending famine in Somalia and the massive setbacks in the fight against poverty, child malnutrition, and maternal mortality due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. One organism’s fight to survive and thrive can come at a cost to unimaginable others. When Vladimir Putin considered all the weapons in his arsenal for his fight to create a second Soviet Union, did he consider that those who would pay the most may not be Europeans or even Ukrainians, but citizens of African countries?

Fall is breezing through here, causing the chimes to play their music on my right. On my left I see Aussie squirming on her back, getting a nice back rub from the compliant grass, probably wishing that I would hurry over and give her a belly rub, too.

Is the universe friendly?

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