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Back in September of 2004, Hurricane Ivan was on his way, and the predictions tracked the probable course straight through west/central Alabama. I was very excited, for the last hurricane of that magnitude that I remembered was Hurricane Frederick in 1979 (when I was 8 years old), and that one had earned me several days off from school! I have always had a fascination with Mother Nature, and I ve thought at times that I should have been a storm chaser. This type A side of me was really looking forward to meeting Ivan face to face. However, somewhere down in my more mature, aged mind lurked the logical concern that most people of good sense have when something like a hurricane is coming. I guess it was this sensible, worried side that caused me to have a dream 3 days prior to Ivan making landfall. The dream took place at my parent s home. There was a terrible storm going on outside with very high winds. I stood there in the living room and watched as an old tulip poplar tree fell that was in a small patch of woods behind my parent s backyard. A picture of my parent s home taken in 1967 (3 years before I was born) shows this tree towering tall above the rest. This poplar was the single most majestic tree I remember as a child growing up. It must have already been 40-50 years old when I was born. I always admired the tree, and it was always a crucial landmark for me whenever I would wonder which way home was. I was heartbroken in the dream. To see it fall tore my heart into and I awoke very upset, sweating and I couldn t hardly breathe. The next day, while on my lunch hour, I went to my parent s house. My dad was there, and I told him about the dream I had had. I specifically pointed to the tree and said It was that one, the big poplar. He nodded in distracted acknowledgement and I dropped the subject. Now, my family and I live 7 miles north of where my parents live. There were two large cedars that sat at the upper right corner of the house, and I always worried about them falling. If they were to fall in certain directions, they would have landed in the center of both my kids bedrooms. The eve night that Ivan was to hit, I made my children sleep in the living room because the winds were already starting. I prayed several times for the cedars to keep standing, for God to stick his finger through them and anchor them to the ground. The next morning, at first light we discovered that large parts of the cedars had broken off, but they had gone away from the house, and the roots were still in the ground. One of the larger limbs had actually taken out a few rabbit coops and hubby and I had to go out in the storm to rescue the poor things from the splintered wood and twisted wire. To save them, it required both of us going underneath the large limb that was still moaning, cracking and creaking against the increasing winds and blowing rain. The rabbits were soaking wet and terrified but none had been killed. We quickly rigged them up some temporary housing. We had already planned to go over to be with my parents during the worst of the storm for safety reasons because they have a brick home instead of a manufactured/mobile home, so, at 7:00 am we set out in the truck in what was already beginning to be hurricane force winds. We had to dodge large debris in the road as we travelled the 7 miles. The monster Dodge dually we had was being blown and tossed around on the road almost like a plastic toy truck. Eventually, we arrived safely, and I immediately checked the poplar and he was OK. Throughout the morning, the storm worsened; gusts became sustained winds and pieces of trees were breaking off everywhere. At about 9:00 am, I stood in the living room looking at my poplar and said to it out loud Please don t fall, lean on the others, make them fall, but, please, don t you fall. Mama and Daddy thought I was crazy talking to a tree. We had a battery operated, black and white television set that we used to get weather updates. By 11:00 am, the forecasters had redrawn the potential path of the storm, and the eye was making a beeline straight for Perry County. Daddy and I were sitting in the sun porch when the most powerful punch that Ivan had came. I turned to watch the patch of woods that belonged to my poplar. Every tree was bent with this intense 1 minute gust, and, in slow motion, the poplar leaned, leaned some more, and slowly his roots could no longer grasp the soaked soil in which he had stood for so long. I repeatedly cried No, no, no as Daddy and I witnessed him lie down on the ground. At approximately 12:00 noon, this 7585 year old tree ended his reign over those woods. I rationalized later that Ivan had spared my kids rooms from the cedars, but took the poplar as payment. Later, when power was restored, the line of Ivan s path drawn on the weather map on television dissected Perry County; the eye had actually passed directly over Marion. Ivan was still a category 1 that far inland. Now, I have never considered myself a tree person. However, I do remember a time, when I was about 5, that I stood between a tree and my chainsaw yielding dad. Face wet with tears, I cried for him to stop. I hoped he would cut me before the tree. I was too young to realize that the tree was already dead; it had been struck by lightening.
Since Ivan, I have continued to have numerous dreams about fallen trees. In one dream, I am wandering around on my parent s land during a time before the Indians were even here. There are ancient trees there that are centuries old, untouched by man. In the dream, there has been a storm and a few of the giants have fallen. I move a large limb off of a fence (strange that a fence would even be there during ancient times) so I can cross, but by moving this limb, it creates a chain reaction of things falling and several more of these beautiful trees die as a result of something I did, and I feel very guilty. Because of another dream, I have notified my parents of one particular tree in their front yard that has to go, or else they will have to contact their homeowners insurance with a very large claim one day. I don t quite understand this fixation I have on trees. I find myself constantly looking into the woods while I am driving down the road. The older the tree, the more fascinating it is to me. I feel drawn to the older ones because of what they ve seen I guess.... better times, before the decay of American society that we have today before the grapes of wrath were as ripe as they are now. I have a new tree today. I have a 130 (moderate estimate) year old loblolly pine that sits down on the edge of a swamp in the cow pasture on my parent s land. Imagine, he saw the Great Depression, and he was probably a young lad (seedling) during the latter part of Reconstruction after the Civil War. There are not many pines that old today, for they have all been logged for the greed of money. But, as long as there s still breath in me, this one will never be cut down. I just might stand between him and any timber cutter that comes. God may take him one day, but no man ever will. Over the years, since Ivan, I have collected numerous babies off of my Tulip Poplar. I find them in the Spring, gently tie a piece of yarn around the little two or three inch seedlings, and dig them up in the late fall or early winter, and transplant them to other areas. One came up only a few feet from the poplar s rotting tower of roots that still stand today like a gravestone. I placed a couple of old concrete blocks around it to protect it. I go there every once in a while and cut brush and weeds from around him, and, hopefully, one day he will be as majestic as his father and growing in the same place. One of the baby seedlings that I transplanted now grows at the house 7 miles north. This little one was only five or six inches high when I planted it. Today, it is almost 12 feet high!! Change is a necessary part of life, but, with the right perspective, new and better things can come, and life goes on.
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