My work for the day was finished. I showered, poured a glass of wine and went back outside to sit on the deck where I could look out across Storm Bay in the fading light. The wine poured was a reward for all the physical effort spent cutting down — at a distance from the house — first, a tree that had got hung up in another tree during the day’s wind storm, and second, cutting down yet another tree after I had unintentionally hung up the second tree in a third tree while dealing with the first tree. Wind in trees is always tricky.
Just to the left of the deck was: the ‘Old One’ — a silver peppermint eucalyptus tree one botanist said was “pre-european” indicating an age exceeding 200 years. Beneath one of its near horizontal overhanging branches was the “picnic table of fond memories” of lunches and candle-lit dinners. Or, even breakfast on a misty morning.
The wind was still gusting hard. Huge waves pounded loud as they broke into foaming masses of watery weight. The noise level was, as expected, many decibels above even a “high” decibel day. But, as always, exciting. Hence, the wine with the wind outside on the deck.
I love immersing myself with drink in wild nature.
And then I heard it.
Like the indigenous hunter who can spot the one tiny dark shadow of his prey in the midst of a thousand of other night shadows, I heard the faint sound of a sound through the many other more loud sounds. This departure from the familiar indicated, not food for the table, but danger; imminent danger.
It was a “cracking” sound and not the “creaking” sound trees make when they sway in wind rubbing branch against branch.
It was a warning sound: a desperate plea from this ancient elder telling me that it could no longer hold on.
My eyes zoomed over to the big Old One and picked out the tiniest of cracks running up the trunk dividing one massive branch away from the main body of the trunk. With each successive wind gust and resultant near imperceptible “crack”, it became evident that this tree was soon — within a minute or two — doomed to fall.
And fall directly onto my house.
What to do? I tried calling my neighbour Steve to come help, but he was an hour’s drive away. I thought maybe I should call the SES (special emergency service) crew to come help, but the light was beginning to fail fast and I didn’t think they would get here in time.
A bending tree is more than a bit tricky to cut down as its weight will surly shift in a counter-intuitive direction and drop heavily on the person beneath it. Without ropes and others helping to guide it to a less destructive landing, one takes a big chance doing it alone.
Yet, I had to take my chances as to do nothing would surely guarantee the house and chimney being crushed. Felling the tree intact before the branch over the house cleaved away from the others seemed the only option as the “bonded” weight of the still whole tree might just move the falling mass away from the house. I grabbed my chainsaw and took a deep breath.
On this day luck was on my side as it was the picnic table and not the house that took the direct hit.
Cleanup has begun.