April is the cruelest month

T.S. Eliot first penned those words, and silly me, I thought he was talking about taxes.

The somber poet was linking the awakening of spring to lingering memories of Mother Nature’s failed promises. What a downer.

Not me. I’ve always associated April with promises too, but only the good promises leading to spring glory and happiness. Tra-la.

But this April, particularly this past week, hasn’t had much to do with happiness.

Sunday night we were enjoying a kitchen supper with dear friends. We were making travel plans and laughing a lot. Maybe it was the laughter or the Chardonnay, but somehow we didn’t hear the roar that came with the honest-to-God tornado.

The lights flickered a few times, but that was all – and we pretty much decided it was just the wind. Turns out it wasn’t a just-type of wind.

Next thing we knew, our next-door neighbor was at the front door with the news that a large tree of ours was down in the back yard and partially lying in their driveway. We never heard the thud.

Monday morning brought the thud – to our pocketbook. And although all the tree people were wildly busy, we were able to book Tuesday morning for the fat hemlock’s removal. Don’t you love it when your damage and your insurance deductible are similar numbers?

But trying to drive downtown from my neighborhood in upper Conewango was also a challenge. It was then that I realized how lucky we had been – one old tree lost and no structural damage.

Our neighbors to the south living in the path of the 120+ mph winds were clobbered. Huge trees down, roofs damaged and out-buildings crushed. It wasn’t like the flattened Oklahoma towns we see on the evening news, but there was plenty of destruction and heartbreak to go around.

Three years ago, during our last tornado, many of our neighbors lost entire yards full of trees and suffered house damages. We suffered only branch and twig pickup, but we had no electricity for almost four days while our nearby neighbors all had theirs.

This year was different. We kept our lights on while those same neighbors lost theirs. Our friends, two doors up, run a sump pump, and when the power failed they wound up with two feet of water in their basement. I thought that was horrific until I learned that they are the same people whose boat was stored amid the headliner destruction in Starbrick. What are the chances that a tornado could wreak havoc on both your house and boat – five miles apart?

Then Monday afternoon brought the great tragedy in Paris. There are not many buildings in the world that bear the history, the dignity, indeed the devotion of the many millions who have visited Notre Dame.

I was stunned when Dear Richard and I visited the cathedral in 2014 on our honeymoon . . . amazed at how much work was taking place to keep her physical integrity, but almost overwhelmed at the enormity of the jammed crowds. When I first visited Notre Dame in 1970, we took our time, wandering leisurely throughout all the chapels, exploring both her openness and her treasured nooks and crannies.

That first visit was enough to be enthralled with her grandeur. I’d studied Notre Dame’s architecture in college but seeing the flying buttresses and rose windows up close and personal was awe inspiring – all the more because of her age. Imagining craftsmen carving those gargoyles and raising the soaring central spire 800 years ago made me appreciate the history of European artisanship. I’m having trouble wrapping my head – and my heart – around this destruction.

Yes, April has been cruel and it’s reshaping my thoughts about permanence. I look toward old world iconic structures as part of our omnipresent past as well as our future – our forever culture. It’s hard to think about our world without the beauty or the meaning of the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall, the Parthenon. I think of them and all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites as worthy of my study, my reverence.

The loss in Paris has tripped me up, made me think about the fragility of all of our historical structures. Thankfully, President Macron has vowed to rebuild.

I heard today that there was no insurance. But wait – who could begin to insure Notre Dame? What would the monthly payments be on a policy written with replacement value reported in the billions – that’s billions, with a B. Certainly not affordable by a church.

So as we struggle with our downed trees, and residential damages, the comfort of our homes and yards that we take for granted every day, I’m thinking about how impermanent ALL our surroundings are. Sure, I think about the potential loss when I renew my homeowner’s policy. But actually losing our home and our treasures? That’s not something I often dwell on.

Ben Franklin was right – the only thing certain is death and taxes. Oh yeah, that tax part was this week too. Another big thud. Gulp.

Better days are coming. I am certain. Pass the Chardonnay.

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