If a Tree Fell…

DSCN2456Tra, La! With strident opening notes, the silence was shattered. Boom! She dropped several octaves; it was all bass no treble, when vocal cords vibrated by powerful pipes, turned her salvo into a roarDishes rattled in the china cabinet and the apartment shook, as she belted out her song. It ended with a deafening crescendo, when one of the towering pohutukawa trees, on the escarpment behind our building, crashed onto the roof above us. The Fat Lady had sung. The cyclone was over. And poor Mr. Bill, hard at work, missed the final act.

It was a brand new day, the sun was shinning and the storm clean-up was well underway, when The Fat Lady took her curtain call. It’s best not to dwell on the fact, that calamity stuck after the council had lifted the evacuation order.  Whatever you do, please don’t suggest, that the lady was a day late and a dollar short. She wouldn’t like it, not one little bit. Timing is everything and this lady was not to be rushed. She waited, delaying her entrance, in order to bring down the house and she nearly did. Once again, we were evacuated. This time it was, Health and Safety, not the police, who gave us our marching orders. However, since the tree fell on Good Friday, a National holiday in New Zealand, we weren’t given the boot, until the following day.  Ho hum, that made two nights in a row, that we went to sleep with a tree on the roof. It wasn’t a novelty anymore; it was becoming the new normal. Now, please don’t suggest, that wherever Mr. Bill lays his head at night, trees fall. He wouldn’t like it, not one little bit!

The tree monkeys* and a massive crane, arrived shortly after Mr. Bill returned from making his Saturday rounds. I made a pot of coffee, intending to watch the show from our corner balcony. Wrong!  What I saw as, prime box seating, the Health and Safety Inspector, saw as downright dangerous. Apparently, the plan was to hoist the two tonne tree off the roof, then swing it up and over the building, before dropping it to the ground. There was some concern, however, that once airborne, it might prove difficult to control. Imagine a giant pendulum, sweeping out in a circular arc, while a crane lowers it to the ground but what would happen, if instead of going down, it continued swinging back and forth, as pendulums do? It would become a battering ram and crash right into our apartment! We left.

We swaped our choice seats for standing room only out on the street and in doing so, had more fun, as is usually the way. Sometimes, there is nothing more satisfying than watching someone else work. A sizable group spectactors soon gathered. We were a mixed bag- neighbors, beach goers and folks just passing by, all gathered together, watching the tree monkey scramble up onto the roof, to secure the cable to the tree. Little by little, the crowd moved closer for a better view. It all seemed to be going so well. Up and down went the tree monkey. One by one, he cut the branches off the tree and lowered them to the ground. With it’s limbs gone, the tree settled itself onto the roof with a soft thunk, as if it had been holding a plank position and could finally relax. Now the tree monkey was ready to attach the cable to the tree. Once secured, he swung across to the hill side and with his chainsaw whirring, cut the tree free. All this time, the tiniest of splinters, had kept the huge pohutukawa stable. The tree trunk had snapped just above it’s base, save for the smallest of threads left behind but that was enough to anchor the tree to the hillside and prevent it from rolling off the roof.  It was the moment of truth. Would the tree remain intact or break apart when hoisted off the roof? Would the removal go smoothly or come to grief? Instinctively, we all edged even closer and were firmly pushed back. Sigh. Ah well, as my friend Rich is fond of saying, “Safety First”.

Denied the best vantage point, we all craned our necks, at about the same angle as the huge crane, in order to watch the show. Except, nothing happened. The crane was positioned at the wrong angle. Double sigh. Back up went the tree monkey, to undo the cable. Down came the crane. Away came the safety blocks and braces supporting the cab. Chug, chug, chug went the engine, as it moved the crane into a new position. Back went the crowd, as the safety cordon was expanded. Now it was getting on tea time and the entire process would have to be repeated all over again. Would the crew take a break? The crowd grew restless. No! They went for it. Hooray! Perhaps it was our expectant faces, that inspired them to push on and try again. They re-calculated the crane’s position and this time, all was in alignment. The crew held fast to the guide wires, as the crane lifted the massive tree and it swung free of the roof. They took up the slack, all the while maneuvering the tree into place, as it was lowered to the ground. And the crowd went wild! Spontaneously, everyone erupted into applause, for a job well done.

I cannot answer the question, “If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?” I can definitively say though, that when a tree falls after a cyclone, it makes music and lands with fanfare.

*  see June 10, 2016 post


Guiding the fallen tree gently to the ground.


The Tree Monkey going up past our bedroom window.


Playing tug of war with a Pohutukawa tree.


A sad ending for a mighty tree.


Flash wood chipper

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4 Responses to If a Tree Fell…

  1. Peter Melien says:

    Hi Mr. Bill and Maureen. Thanks for the update. As you must know, we are awaiting the arrival of the nasty Hurricane Irma. I assume you have someone to watch the house and take any necessary precautions. We spoke to our house watcher yesterday and he is installing our storm shutters today. Never a dull moment. Best,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Eric Fretz says:

    Another nice piece, Maureen. I love how you work the music metaphors into the piece–it’s an unusual and interesting way of thinking about a natural ‘disaster.’

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks Eric. You’ve made my day. I’m nervous and proud that a college professor reads my blog. Poor Mr. Bill, there will be no living with me!


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