At 4:00 p.m., the winds came from the east and not the west at 65mph, sustained for thirty minutes–a straight-line wind it’s called.
From a drone’s view, the wind hit the trees in the cemetery first, uprooting its trunks, toppling gravestones, making a wide swath of destruction within a five-mile range. The next victim was my neighboring lane with thirteen houses. Oak trees twenty inches in diameter pushed left, at thirty- degree angles, one against the other, roots partially exposed, needing an extra shove to fall flat and roll into the side of a house or clothesline full of wet sheets or a cedar deck surrounded with tiki torches.
The blue spruce tree next to my yellow house at the T in the road fell into the next-door neighbor’s swimming pool, bending the metal rods on top. The fifty-foot pine tree didn’t stand a chance against the gusts. I stood at the kitchen window, listening to the crack of the roots snapping, watching it fall as the mama robin outside in the wind watched the same.
The tree, bending as it shouldn’t, was protecting the life within, the robin’s eggs. Branches covered and cuddled the nest, but lost it grip and dropped the nest upside down onto the grass, sealing the blue eggs in a coffin. Chunks of grass ripped from the lawn, pine needles covered the lane like a path in the woods, yards became rivers, and small stones clumped and blocked driveway entries. The landscape changed in a short time.
Half the tree lay in the pool surrounded by the pink flamingo and turtle floats, its weight distributed over the blue solar pool cover. The water acted like a buoy and kept the limbs afloat, while the other half of the tree lay stretched on the ground, a crown atop the muddy soil. The mama robin stayed in the grass near the nest, and her fledglings. She sat there and never moved.
Fifteen hours later, an excavator removed the large tree from the pool, from the yard, taken away as landfill. The machine picked up the nest along with all the pine needles and trunk and branches. The bucket with teeth resembling a dragon pawed at the tree stem, grabbed and lifted and turned and discarded the piles into the dump truck, unceremoniously, callously.
The land is cleared, but the mama bird returns each day. The tree she perches on is half dead; only one limb sprouts leaves. She circles the yard never giving up, looking for her clutch.
The afternoon that the winds come out of nowhere, the hot, humid air was ripe for the toppling, yet it was as unexpected as the aneurysm which claimed Dad’s life, as unexpected as my two who slipped away as quickly as they came, barely formed.
The twilight of life wiped out; the beginning of life the same.
Dad collapsed on the bedroom floor and left his home for the last time on a stretcher. Unconscious, breathing, but with no brain activity, he passed by his boots with the red laces lying next to the garden hose tangled in the grapevines.
A sliver of skin soaking in peroxide in an orange Tupperware container, big enough to hold ten olives, was on the way to the doctor’s office.
The landscape changed in a short time.
Be thankful he went so quickly, they said.
Something was wrong, said the nurse.
Its nature’s plan to uproot and allow new growth, I tell the mama robin.
No words are comforting.
I have read where birds grieve their losses like humans, a process that could go on for days or weeks. But the mama robin will build another nest, lay more eggs. She will have a chance at another family.
In the same storm, the wind stripped my once fragrant lilac bush of its scent, a pile of purple tubular flowers puddled on the ground. But next season it will return in its glory, its pungent sweet smell clinging in the air, its dark green, shiny leaves in contrast to its violet blooms, and will thrive, with its tough, hardy nature. As will the robin. As will I.
Ann Hajdu Hultberg is a retired high school English teacher and college composition instructor. Ann writes nonfiction stories about her family, especially focusing on her father’s escape from Budapest, Hungary, to the United States. Her essays have been accepted by over a dozen magazines and journals including Drunk Monkeys, Persimmon Tree, Fevers of the Mind, Mum Life Stories, Thorn Literary Magazine, Her View from Home, Moonchild, Mothers Always Write, and various publications on Medium. where several of her stories were editors’ picks. You can follow Ann on Facebook at 60 and writing.