Sunday, August 17, 2008
"Lighting Tree" At The Teachout Residence (Photo 1)
On the farm where I grew up, woods were all around, and sometimes I would find a lighting tree...
...which had been destroyed or severely scarred by lightning. Once, when I was about 11 years old--about how old my son is, now--there had been a loud lightning strike which sounded like it was practically in our front yard. I was convinced the strike had been very close and I could find the tree, because I thought I heard the crackle of splintering wood right after the lighting strike.
So in the morning, after the storm had passed, I decided to go looking for the tree. My father said not to bother. Sure, the lighting sounded close, but that is often the case with lighting. I kept saying I had heard not only the lightning strike, but the crashing of wood. I would find the tree. Dad said he would give me $5 if I could make good on my vow. For that kind of money, I said, I would be happy to look all day. So I set out on my journey, first walking behind the little "hog house" building about 30 yards from our house.
And there it was. The lighting tree, scorched and split wide open. Hunks of bark the size of serving trays were strewn all around, seemingly knocked off the tree by a tremendous blow. Some of the bark looked as though it had briefly been on fire.
"Dad!" I yelled. "I found the treeeeeeeeeee."
That day, neighbors made pilgrimages to our yard to gaze upon the spectacle. Yes, even the Keller family, whose familial roots went into the local soil even more deeply than my mother's side of the family, and were not easily amazed by local acts of nature.
After that, from time to time, but really not very often, I would periodically find trees which had been hit by lightning. So I know a "lightning tree" when I see one.
The Teachout family has a lightning tree in their back yard. In fact, I've never seen such a pristine example of a lighting tree, not in all my years of walking through woods in a contemplative fashion.
An incredible scar runs from the top of the trunk--the last point where it is thick--all the way to the very bottom of the tree, where a small black remnant of scorching can still be seen. It coils around the tree, slightly, like a serpent.
And here is the amazing thing: the tree, which is a maple, has completely healed. Yes, part of the trunk at the base is hollow--on the opposite side from the scarring--a fact Joy Teachout pointed out to me. I figured it was likely all kinds of parasites got inside the tree while it was injured and torn wide open. Now squirrels probably use the maple to hide or stash nuts. And yet the tree appears to be thriving.
If I had to estimate how long ago the lighting strike was--just based on the thickness of the scars where the tree is healed, and my own observations of trees which have recovered from injuries to trunks and limbs--I would say the strike was at least a decade ago, and perhaps as long as two decades ago.
I think of the tree as a symbol of our neighborhood. Yes, it has seen the very roughest of things; the crack epidemic, murder, copper pipe theft and rampant mortgage fraud. But it is recovering, becoming green and beautiful. And what an amazing coincidence the lightning tree should be in the yard of the chairman of the neighborhood council!
Only one mystery to be solved: did the tree simply recover on its own? Or did a former property owner at 3029 6th St. N. make deliberate and heroic efforts to save the tree?
I prefer to believe the maple's recovery was no accident. Some responsible person had a hand in its survival.