On a hot, still day in September – a day that did not feel like autumn – the Great Black Oak in the backyard fell. It had grown at an angle most of its life, stretching out over the Rock Garden and an ancient gnarled hackberry and some pink dogwoods. When it came down, drawn finally to earth, it broke the old hackberry and took the dogwoods out, too. The yard was still as death that afternoon, hot as death, a green death that stretched 60 feet across the yard from the roots of the Great Black Oak.

Pepper had been at doggy daycare when the old oak fell, and I had been at a meeting.

Late that afternoon, surveying the great expanse of leaf and limb and root, we felt sober and somber (next door neighbor words – and feelings – sometimes). We also felt grateful and disconcerted, for we played in the yard by the Great Black Oak every day.

Pep walked slowly from root to crown, sniffing, pawing.

“Why today?” she asked, quietly.

I had been wondering the same thing.

Why on a hot autumn day – no breeze, no rain – why on a hot autumn day would the Great Black Oak fall to the earth?

“I wish it hadn’t crushed the hackberry and the dogwoods,” Pep murmured.

I wished it hadn’t either. The yard looked like a green massacre.

“Eventually you end up where you’ve been leaning,” I finally said. 

“I’m leaning towards a nap,” said Pep. “It’s been a long day dealing with all the other dogs at daycare.”

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