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It's time

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I don't need a calendar; I've got a dogwood tree. It's fall and the leaves are getting rusty-colored and red berries are hitting the deck. So are pokeberries reprocessed, if you will, by a variety of locals like the cardinals and brown thrashers and migrating species like the hermit thrush, a wonderful singer.

This is the very same dogwood whose blossoms herald spring.

This is the very same dogwood that nearly didn't make it through that nasty ice storm in '02. It gave me the first clue that evening that something weather-wise had reached an intensity far beyond predictions.

The sound of pelting ice—pure pink noise—woke me. Not far from the bedroom window, the tree was already bent clear over, top branches frozen to the ground. I ran outside in moccasins and took a broom to the ice until it let go of the tree. Then I knocked off some more and went over to the hemlock and did the same.

Only after pausing to catch a breath did the sound of what was really going on become clear. Off toward the highway, all through the woods, you could hear the tops of trees exploding—a chorus of cracking and popping and crashing to the ground. I scanned the 14 pines in my yard, said a little prayer and woke up the missus.

We listened under the safety of the eaves for hours as pines lost their crowns in the woods and the neighborhood. Occasionally, farther on down the hill toward town, you could see the blue flash and hear the bang as another transformer went up.

We had some close calls, but no damage—just a lot of debris. Seven days with no heat was the worst of it and, like the dogwood, with a little help—a lot, really—from our friends, we survived.

So the dogwood is changing color. And the mammals of the house are getting their coats ready. It's time to ride the tilt to the shadier side of the sun. Here's hoping I just need the broom for sweeping.

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