2020. What else is there to say? It’s been a year of change for everyone. In our case, we adjusted decently well to the new restrictions put in place by the pandemic and threw ourselves head first into the work of building a new space for the horses on our friends’ land. As of early August, we had four happy horses and an optimistic outlook for the rest of the year.
Then August 10 happened.
Personally, I’ve had enough of learning about new extreme weather events via the expedient yet traumatic experience of living through them. In the case of the day in question, a derecho hit Iowa. I had never heard of a derecho. I certainly didn’t know one was coming. I happened to break out of my usual routine and spend the morning with the horses. Then I drove home, stopped at a fruit stand to buy a melon in response to a random impulse, and got back to the house we’d lived in for 14 years just in time to be present for one of the most list-changing events I’ve ever lived through.
A derecho, turns out, is basically an inland hurricane. Our area clocked gusts of wind up to 110 mph. The storm came out of a clear blue sky. It rolled in as an enormous wall of clouds and wind to hit our neighborhood. More specifically, it hit our walnut tree. This was a tree we now know weighed upwards of 55,000 pounds and had lived for well over a century.
The tree didn’t break. It’s subterranean roots cracked in half, splitting horizontally in some cases, simply pulling the earth around them skywards in others. And then when it had nothing left to anchor it in place, the tree fell onto our house.
This new level of proximity did not end well for either party. The tree didn’t survive the experience. We hope the house will, but it’s still an open question. We’re currently missing most of our roof. What used to be the ceiling in my office is now on the floor. We’ve moved into an apartment while we navigate the question of repairs and whether or not we’ll ever move back or not.
In many ways, we were lucky. I was not in my office, for one thing. I would have been on a normal day. For another, although we could have lost many of our personal possessions to not having a roof during a storm that raged for well over an hour after the tree fell, we managed to save nearly everything we own. Even the closet we couldn’t get into at first because it was blocked by broken rafters we were able to excavate our way into after a couple of weeks.
Another thing I feel lucky about is that the horses pulled through fine. In fact, for three days we lived on the same property with them while we searched for a new place to stay. This wasn’t easy as power lines were down throughout the region and internet and cell communications were also largely out. There was no power at the farm either. But our friends there took us and Esti in anyway. Without electricity, the horses didn’t have water but it wasn’t that hard to haul it in.
The New Normal
I don’t know where we’ll be living at the end of this year, but I know for sure it won’t where we were living at the beginning. Between that, moving our horses, and both of us working from home now because of the pandemic, just about every aspect of our lives changed in 2020.
The good news, though, is the core features haven’t shifted. We’ve still got each other, our fabulous pup, two good horses, and friends we could fall back on when we didn’t have a roof over our heads. Mostly, I can look back on all this with a feeling of gratitude.
But also, I feel like I’ve had enough in terms of abrupt and unforeseen changes. I’d like to slow down and enjoy the scenery for a while.