It happened on July 19th. It was my daughter’s birthday, that’s why I remember the date. I had had a fun day watching my grandsons and was on the way home when I heard an ominous weather warning for the Balsam Lake, Turtle Lake, Cumberland, Wisconsin area. Our cabin is right in that area. Tornados, straight line hurricane force winds, and heavy rains were on their way. This was a Friday and we often headed for the cabin but we hadn’t this time. At dinner we decided it would be best to see if there was any significant damage to our property. The storm had passed and the hour’s drive up there went well, with little sign of damage …..until we got to Turtle Lake. Turning north off Highway 8 we encountered road after road blocked by fallen trees and electrical poles. Barns were down and houses were buried beneath trees. If we could get to our cabin we wondered what we would find. Meandering through the countryside we eventually got close enough to our cabin to park and walk in along the lakeshore. The cabin appeared to have minimal damage. We were thankful. Then we walked to the back deck and saw nothing but chaos. Standing at the back door we saw uprooted trees lying across all of the properties in sight. We couldn’t see our garage or find the driveway. Sixty to seventy foot trees had fallen covering everything in their way. Our driveway, a third of a mile long, and the forest surrounding it were impassible.
The rest of our summer was consumed by storm cleanup! It wasn’t all bad, however. Like difficult circumstances can sometimes do, it brought our family together to conquer the issue. We used loppers, chainsaws, hand saws and wood chippers to attach the debris. We called in two tree services to help clear the sixty-plus trees down on the property. Friends came to help and our children’s friends came to help. We were a team determined to win. By Labor Day weekend we felt we could take a break. The area near the cabin is open and sunny now, very different then it was in the past, but we’ll get used to it. To take advantage of the new, open space we pounded a piece of plywood on top of a tree stump to make a “forest pingpong table.” We used chunks of discarded wood from the broken garage joists to make a lawn game similar to Bocce Ball. We had a great time. The following weekend we gathered five foot sections of straight tree branches for an all school environmental project at Blake School. It was then, while hauling branches, that I almost trip on a stump near the driveway. I looked down and saw a heart created by the growth rings in the middle of the stump. I felt a sudden rush of emotion as I looked down at it. It summarized the summer’s events for me. The feelings of despair and sadness over the loss of the trees and the damage to property were overcome by the thankfulness and joy of having friends and family around, working as a team to accomplish something worthwhile and to ultimately have lots of fun together. What could be better than that! That stump put the exclamation point on the summer’s adventure! Thank you, God, for reminding us you are always with us, in the hard times as well as the good times.