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The Great Outdoors

I Have Been Defeated And Humbled By My Hated Foe, The Wind

1:18 PM EST on March 7, 2023

Albert owned by the wind.
I took this photo

My ridiculous log house sits on a steep hillside and is surrounded closely on three sides (formerly four) by many tall deciduous trees. It also came with a detached two-car garage, not made of logs. I'd never really had much reason to consider these facts in any sort of relation to each other before oh, like 8:28 on the morning of the Friday before last.

It was a lovely morning, sunny after a few days of rain, and blustery. I was sitting at the table, shooting the shit in Defector Slack and poking around the news for potential blog subjects, when a sudden ungodly huge-sounding crescendo of creaking and ripping and rushing sounds announced that a tree on the uphill side of the house was on its way down. There is an absolutely titanic oak right across the driveway from the house—not a great wide low oak like one grown in an empty field next to a farmhouse, but a forest oak, a hundred feet of trunk, more than two feet across at head height. Ten tons of hardwood. For what felt like long moments but probably was literally one second, I thought that tree was coming down. Specifically what I thought was that if that tree was coming down, then I was about to be smushed down into the earth under the basement of my house like a cigarette butt ground under a bootheel, and would be incredibly dead in just a moment. Then there was a big booming crack, and the house shook, but the sound was all outside. Whatever had fallen had (mostly) missed the house.

And fuckin' smashed the garage to hell!

I couldn't tell at first, in the first seconds after I ran outside to see what had happened. Like obviously something had been hit, by something else, because the narrow alley of space between the garage and house—formerly a reasonably tidy little garden area—was now filled with a ruin of snapped boughs and branches, and the gutter on the side of the house facing the garage was all mangled and bent. But the garage appeared to be upright from where I was standing. Scanning around in a sort of adrenalized daze, I saw the snapped-off corpse of some adolescent tree, eight inches in diameter, and thought Ah, there's your culprit. And then for the next few seconds I was thinking what a stressful and expensive pain in the ass it would be to get the entire garage roof retiled and the gutters on that side of the house replaced. I called the insurance company and told them that little piss-ant tree had snapped in the wind and fallen over and damaged the roof of the garage.

Then I noticed that the front of the garage, formerly flat, was now a distinctly convex shape, like the curve of the lens on your eyeball. It looked like the garage was overinflated. Nothing that can be remedied by the mere replacement of some roofing tiles will ever do that to a structure made of wood and concrete. Moreover that little tree certainly could not have done it.

I hadn't been imagining big enough, turns out! My search for the culprit needed to have started farther away. It had been a huge oak after all: not the hundred-foot monster next to the driveway, but a slightly smaller one—still huge!—from farther uphill, which had uprooted itself entirely and come down like Godzilla's baseball bat, and killed that smaller tree on the way. The bat's sweet spot, apparently, had hit behind the peak of the garage roof, and baby, that sucker hit a dang home run. You just had to step a little farther back to admire it.

A woodland garage with a smashed-in roof.

Evidently the garage absorbed most of the falling tree's energy; by the time the tree had fallen far down enough to smack the roof of my house directly above where my wife was sitting at her desk, working, it couldn't do more than shred a bunch of roof tiles, rake the gutter, and spike one of its branches so violently that it stabbed into the roof on the opposite side of the house.

The entire back of the garage is a ruin, just completely caved-in all the way down to the floor. One issue with that is, it still has my family's two vehicles in it. That afternoon I borrowed a family member's car to pick my kids up from school. More than a week has passed and the vehicles are still in there, trapped; for the time being there is no way to get them out. The garage doors are inoperable, for one thing, because of the structure that makes possible their raising and lowering having been destroyed. For another, the vehicles have many thousands of pounds of roof and frame pounded down onto them. The (newly convex) garage wall facing the house somehow still has two intact windows; theoretically you could climb through one of them to at least assess the state of my dumb minivan and my wife's tiny subcompact, whose front ends were stationed pretty much directly under where the tree hit the roof, except there would be nowhere for your body to go in there, what with all the rubble.

Step one, for the contractors the insurance company sent out, was to remove the several tons of oak tree embedded in the garage's smashed depths like an ax blade in, well, an oak tree trunk. There was a cool moment during that, when my wife and I came outside and the contractor guy was fiddling around with a radio controller; we looked up and there was a quadcopter drone, hovering 150 feet up in the air, snapping aerial photographs of the scene; the contractor guy's tablet had a live feed from the drone's camera. It had to fly that high up, he explained, so that it could get the entire length of the fallen tree into the frame.

Step two was to build a quick timber frame to give the ruin a vaguely roof-like shape, so that a tarp could be stretched over it to keep rain out. Step three will be to bring in a dumpster and some kind of heavy equipment and remove the rubble, for step four, which will be to go inside what's left of the garage and remove the doors, for step five, which will be to remove the cars. (I am guessing they will not be driven out!) Then we can find out how damaged they are. There will be lots of steps after that, I am pretty sure, ending very probably with a rebuilt garage, some number of operable vehicles, and a repaired roof and gutter. That's the hope. I am not trying to cash in on insurance, here; I will settle, happily, for everything being more or less exactly as it was, as untidy and ramshackle as it was, at 8:27 that Friday morning.

Then there will just be the problem of that one or two seconds when I was sure I was about to meet, with the feeble crown of my skull, 10 tons of oak coming through the ceiling at a hundred miles an hour, and the fact that I now find myself looking sidelong at the trees around my home like any one of them might pull a switchblade at any moment. It's blustering outside right now, on another bright and gorgeous day; it's very nice to hear the wind chimes, and to crack a window and let some breeze in. Every time it gusts I find my upper body hunching; my neck is even a little sore from it and it's not even 1 p.m. yet.

Years ago on the old website I ranked my enemies in nature, as I had come to know them in a little more than a year of living in a log cabin in the woods. I am sort of bleakly proud to have had the foresight to rank "wind" first overall. I'm surrounded on three (formerly four) sides by the accursed wind's arsenal of gigantic weapons! It could use any of them at any time and bash me directly into hell!

Death to the wind. From hell's heart I stab at it, ridiculously, from my front porch, with like a garden spade or something.

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