Friday, November 30, 2018
You’re safe from falling trees, probably; from opioids, not so much
People exaggerate their proximity to death. "But I was just in Pittsburgh last spring!" I'm not sure why. To scrape up a frisson of excitement, I suppose. Or to feel significant, and turn attention back to themselves. Those sound right.
So I want to be careful when describing what happened Monday. There had been a big storm the night before, as you remember, heavy snow, high winds, flights cancelled, power lines snapping.
Monday morning, 6 a.m., my thoughts focused on firing up my mighty Ariens snow thrower, the pride of Wisconsin, a crouching orange beast with a light and its own little shovel, that had waited all spring, summer and fall under a tarp in my garage.
But my wife counseled that 6:30 a.m. is too early. People are sleeping. Why not walk the dog first? This seemed a shirking of my snowblowing responsibilities—I could have our block clear in a jiffy!—but I yielded to her good sense, and leashed our dog, Kitty.
Outside the front door, I thought I would address our front steps—easy to shovel before you trample down the snow—and Kitty went bolting off to a corner of our yard after a squirrel, which scampered up a walnut tree. That usually keeps the dog—whose brain is about the size of a walnut—occupied, standing on her hind legs, and looking up the trunk, waiting for the squirrel to come back down and be friendly.
I finished the front steps, scrapping away the dense, wet snow. I might have had less than a minute to live, depending on what I did next. I headed toward Kitty, but rather than wait for me, she bolted off toward the street. My neighbor, Bill, was walking toward us, heading for the train. He snagged her leash.
Normally I wouldn't engage in conversation—Bill has those trains timed to the second. But as I took the leash, he said something about the snowblower, or maybe I said something. I explained my wife had held me back, and asked if he wanted me to clear his walk. He said no, his high schooler was asleep, and he'd do it. I was standing at the foot of my driveway, just beyond a line of six 70-year-old, 50-foot-tall evergreen trees. Bill and I were maybe 15 feet apart, me on the sidewalk, he in the street.
There was a noise, a kind of piny rending. I looked to the left, and the trunk of the tree was moving....
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