It’s been over a week and I still can’t bear to go outside. I had a quick tour the day after Ophelia hit, but I think that I was in such shock that I couldn’t let the destruction sink in all at once. I get glimpses out the window, or when I round the bend in the road and see the twisted stumps where Sam and Dave, our majestic Scots pines should be. Each time it just takes my breath away.
The property looks as if an alien spaceship hit us with three laser blasts; two to the left of the house along the drive, and one to the right. Along these three alleys of annihilation trees lie uprooted, exploded and snapped like matchsticks. My daughter noted that it reminded her of the Battle of Bastogne in Saving Private Ryan. In some places the pile of debris is over three metres high. They were mostly tall pines: Norwegian spruce, noble firs, Lalandii, a few ash and, of course Sam and Dave. Strangely, many apples stayed on the trees though the orchard is littered with windfalls. The vegetable patch is bent backwards and blackened, as if an evil breath had blown over it. The fruit cage we put up this year is squashed under a large pine. The front vegetable patch is buried under trunks and branches. The house itself was spared apart from a small leak in the roof. No cars were damaged though three were parked in the yard, which now sports a ten foot hole where a tree was uprooted. In fact though we lost dozens of trees, not one branch came down on any roads or buildings. I should be grateful.
I still haven’t been down the field to see Sam and Dave up close. Sam was snapped cleanly and went first. Dave looks like the crown ripped off, twisting the trunk upside down like a gnarled cane. Judging by their size they were both at least one hundred and fifty years old. They have been the view, the landmark, the living symbol of the House. They were a part of the family. Some times at sunset the light bathed Sam and Dave with burnished gold and dark shadows that turned the view into a magically bucolic landscape. We would often stop what we were doing and go to the porch to enjoy the transformation. It only ever lasted for a few minutes, but it always filled me with delight. Other times, when the sky was streaked with purple and red, Sam and Dave’s arching crowns made it look like we lived above the African savannah . Their giant silhouettes dominated the night sky. Some nights a nail pairing moon and bright Venus were caught between the two trees. At those times the view looked Japanese. One could easily imagine the outline of Mount Fuji on the horizon. . I can’t remember when we started calling them Sam and Dave, but I remember why. Sometimes, when the moon was full and the wind up, the moonlight would spotlight the trees as they did their synchronised dance, and I could easily imagine them singing “Hang on…I’m coming” or “I’m a Soul Man”.
It will be hard to come to terms that they are gone. Today, I took the first steps and talked to a tree surgeon about clearing the wreckage Ophelia left behind. We’ll start with the dangerous trees that are leaning along the drive. Then we’ll move on to the battle zone out the back. We didn’t talk about clearing the Scots pines. I’m getting there, but I’m not ready yet.