The Tree on the Roof

Hackberry (Cellis occidentalis) by Pierre-Joseph Redouté. Source: New York Public Library via rawpixel.

There is a tree lying across the roof of my house, a fairly large tree that came down yesterday in the early hours of an overnight in which the temperatures never dropped below 80 degrees. I felt it when it hit the house, the shudder waking me from an already restless sleep.

I went downstairs, noticed shadows outside where there ought not be any, the silhouette of a thin branch floating in front of my kitchen window.

When the day grew light enough I went outside to have a look. I was surprised to find relatively little damage to the house, at least as far as I could tell from peering up through the branches. Gutters and soffits, sprung from their careful fittings, lay buckled beneath the thick torso of the fallen tree, but the roof itself appeared to be intact. Though I won’t know for sure until the tree service arrives and the tree is lifted and removed, something that might not happen for days.

Or longer. The last time I needed to hire a tree service it took three months for the work to get done. But that work didn’t involve anything so hazardous as a tree on my roof, so perhaps this time will be different.

I spent the day on the phone, making calls to line up a tree service, leaving messages, waiting for people to call me back. I filed a claim with my insurance company, and later in the day I talked to a claims adjuster, who wasn’t rude, exactly; he just sounded jaded and indifferent to my situation. But maybe it was me, edgy and hyper-aware of the precarity and randomness of the moment, knowing that the tree could have fallen differently, resulting in a situation far more catastrophic than what I was facing.

Am facing.

Most of the time I feel safe in my house. It’s been a reasonably reliable container. But things have happened here, and I am not always at ease within it.

The cellar has flooded, the roof has leaked. Et cetera.

For the past few days we’ve been under a heat advisory, told to stay inside if we can, assuming we have air conditioning, which I do, and for which I am grateful, even though it comes at the expense of more carbon rising into the stratosphere. (How to square that circle, I wonder.) And so I’m spending most of my time in this space, under the weight of the tree on the roof, reading, typing to you, waiting for the next thing to happen.

Did the heat bring down that tree, a hackberry whose rotting interior is now exposed for all to see? I am no arborist, but I suspect the stress from year after year of summers grown too hot for this particular species played some part in its demise, even if it was just to give increased comfort and quarter to the burrowing insects that have been feeding on its core all this time.

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