Halloween Wind Storm

It scattered seventy trees across or into Balsamea’s 2.5 miles of trails.   It’s seventy-give-or-take; I lost count a couple of times while stopping to think about how to deal with some of the fallen trees.  Thinking never has been a reliably good idea.  It often interferes with nobler processes, even vital ones.

The big winds came on Thursday and Friday, October 31 & November 1, 2019.  It is the biggest such storm tree impact in Balsamea’s 14.5-year history.  Before now, the biggest one was the “717 Storm” of July 17, 2012.

I’ll never forget the way my heart sank into my stomach when I found 33 trees on the trails on July 18, 2012.  Working on clearing them and rerouting paths around some of them — never with a chainsaw, which violates Balsamea law — I learned that it was good for me and good for the trails.  Often when I addressed a change that Nature threw onto a trail, the result was a better trail or connection to another trail.  I’m sure I don’t have to explain why it’s good for me to go work in the woods, for mind and body and whatever else I may be.

My little Cadivus story of September 7, 2018 explains the immersive experience of co-creating trails with Nature.  Handy excerpts if you don’t want to read the Cadivus post (I don’t blame you):


God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, “Ah!”
—Joseph Campbell

… for me, even a fallen tree.

If just looking at a tree can be a divine experience, or something transcendent, then what may be revealed or experienced when you spend a few days intimately connecting with every part of a big fallen tree and everything on the ground surrounding it, including clearing away many other trees that it fell on, changing it to a playground shaped from what had been a big obstacle fallen onto and blockading an important trail? What does that intimacy reveal?

… When nature clobbers a trail with a big tree, and I work with it instead of against it, the outcome is a better trail. Nature has contributed greatly to the styles and routes of trails here, and she loves change.

Cadivus is a Latin word meaning fallen or windfall, translated in the usual sense of “a sudden gain,” and in the sense of “fruit blown from a tree.” The wind gave me a windfall-deadfall where an abundance of new life began, forever shaped according to a merger of the tree and me. Nothing really died. It was transformed.

… That place, as it exists now, is an expression of me. The tree drew me into combination with — immersion with — its nature. Now I am there forever.

… So Cadivus is not a “wild” place, if you count human influence as unwilding. It is a widened wild. Perhaps Natalie Goldberg would call it an expression of wild mind, or simply wild mind itself.

With seventy trees (plus countless branches and limbs scattered everywhere) now waiting to infuse me into the essence of the forest, and it into me, maybe I should change Balsamea’s name to Cadivus.

In 2012, I was so impressed with the storm that I mapped its impact onto the trail map I created that year.  In the picture below (click to enlarge), the white hash marks across trails are the significant trees fallen into or across the trails.  (There are about 2,000 feet of new trail added since 2012.)

717 Storm

See those white marks from the 717 storm?  Some are hard to detect.  I count 33.  Double the number of white marks, and add a few more.  That’s the Halloween storm.

717 was in July.  I finished the trail rehab in December.  (I do have one or two other things to do, but I should really stop most of them.)  Fortunately, that year we had almost no snow all the way into December.  I have a picture showing only a dusting of snow in December.

This year, the work began yesterday, November 2.  It looks like my snowshoe routes may have a lot of dead ends this year, depending on when we get snow and how much.  Some years we have very little in November.  Last year we had a lot.

I have not photographed the Halloween impact.  You can see what it looks like in the pictures from the July 17, 2012 storm …

Maybe I will become an outlaw and break Balsamea’s prohibition against using a chainsaw on the trails.  The law is there because a chainsaw makes the standing trees nervous, gives the squirrels and birds PTSD, and insults the peace of the forest.  Compared with my big lopping shear and bow saw, a chainsaw is also a lot heavier and clumsier to carry around, with its gas can, tool bag, leg chaps and helmet.  Still, I can drag the machine on a sled.

My body is not what it was seven years ago.  There are two ailments recently acquired that say a lot of nasty things when I don’t cater to them.  In fact, one of them is muttering at me right now as I type.

I’ll start with the peaceful means, take some shortcuts, and see how it goes.

I’m not superstitious, but as I walked along, trying not to think while keeping numbers in my head, I could not help believe this was Nature’s answer to my failure to engage a commitment I made about a month ago.

Instead of the superstitious, the rational views are, “Incredible coincidences abound,” and “Doh!”

However, over the last couple of years I’ve been getting yellow flags popping up, saying that I should get prepared for letting go of Balsamea soon.

Nothing lasts forever.  Not even democracy.  Not even the planet.  Those two may be in greater jeopardy than my tenure as The Balsamean.

In any case, this Halloween, Nature screamed at me to be immersed in the soul of this forest refuge more deeply, to give up some other things that really are a waste of time.  That’s what I committed to a month ago, and it didn’t happen.  The opposite happened.  I figure it’s some sort of self-destructive homeostatic psycho-crap that overreacts when I try to make conscious effort to be more of what I can be.  It throws three anchors over the side when I’m trying to paddle somewhere.

Nature’s got a helluva way to give a guy a nudge to stick with the program.  Seventy trees?

Copyright 2019 TheBalsamean.comFor a while, I won’t have time or energy to be messing around with writing and research, photography and photo-based abstract art, movies, reading, tending hobbies like art collecting (my screen-saver rivals the world’s biggest museums, and I learn nifty stuff in the process), and other things that really don’t matter at all relative to why I am here, for salvation.  Conveniently, I don’t have to cancel or avoid social commitments to make more time for forest immersion, since all my friends are scattered out there on the trails.

17 thoughts on “Halloween Wind Storm

  1. You don’t have lemon trees so cannot make lemonade, but hey, you’ve an amazing amount of material to make benches and chairs and tables and sofas and beds and t-pees and even corrals and maybe some log houses… I think I’d have to ask the remaining trees for their permission to tolerate a few days’ of noise pollution so there can be order – and peace, new trails and all!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I like your approach, of course, but almost all of these downed trees are balsam firs with no commercial value except when harvested in big numbers. Many of them are trees that were sick, already dead, or were weakened by ants and by the woodpeckers that excavate the ants, making the trunks vulnerable to the wind, a common thing with the balsams. Even plenty of perfectly healthy ones with big trunks snap off, or get uprooted. It is a brittle wood.

      There is a positive process afoot with a positive outcome virtually inevitable, and not entirely invisible, but may be better left uncertain, so as to not mess it up with expectations.

      Thanks, Lisa. I know where your heart leans in this. Makes me lucky.


        • That’s great stuff. I like the horse more than the deer … too many deer here already. A moose would be great. Around here, things made of willow and birch twigs, sticks and woven strips are popular in art and furniture. I once made a nifty little camp lean-to with balsam branches and dead maple and birch poles, in the depth of winter, lashed together with jute twine. Kept the wind and snow out. That’s the extent of my stick crafting.

          Pinterest is right up there with Facebook on my list of words to exclude from searches.

          I guess branches from my fallen balsams could be used in stick art. Works for wreaths. They sure do bend a lot under snow load while alive. Probably not so good after they dry. Brittle. Birch stick wreaths are nice, too.


          • Interesting art! The branches would certainly provide possibilities. I’ll post a link to one of my favorite art pieces of all time, the Catamount People’s Museum in Catskill, New York, by Matt Bua. Unfortunately it’s been taken down now. A number of pictures remain on the Internet. I thought it was marvelous art. I’m not able to travel but if I was, it would have made Catskill a tourist destination for me: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/catamount-peoples-museum


    • P.S.: Balsam fir has a few popular uses: aromatic things (I do a little of that), Christmas trees, wreaths and sprays. Best I can do with that is a little hobby for donating to a few places.

      Otherwise, it’s just not for me to pursue. The natural resources here can’t be integrated into society through me.

      I’ve often considered trying an alternative that I now know I would not do. I would not advertise for strangers to come in and harvest the balsam branches from trees they help remove from the trails (or firewood from dying hardwoods, or even rocks from the rock walls). I’d rather leave the trees on the trails than do that.

      The trails will get what they need from me, and I from them, no matter how many storms we entertain. And, this time, we are submitting to a chainsaw’s help, for the moment.


  2. Sorry about the trees. I have a big one that’s dying and should come down. She is west of the house and leans toward the house. And winds blow from that direction. But I cannot bear it! I have maybe fifteen trees on my one-acre place and she’s by far my favorite.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If you weren’t so dang far away I’d help you take that old bristlecone down. Just have to get a helicopter to hold it off the house while we cut. But seriously, I hope you can find someone to do it for a livable price, instead of watching it die. I hope you can find a use for the wood. A carver? Is that a harder than average pine wood?

    15 trees to an acre. Hmm. Around here that would be a dairy farm. You have anything to graze on besides sand?

    Privacy must come only by fences or distances in your neighborhood. I think about all the places I’ve lived with wall-to-wall housing — city, suburb, apartments, barracks, aircraft carriers — and I wonder how people stay sane so packed together like that. Maybe we are truly hive creatures, evolved for dense collectives, and just some of us developed isolation dependency disorder (IDD), addicted to solitude. I’m so accustomed to being surrounded by trees now, if I have to leave here for an elders apartment, I’ll be looking for a virtual reality rig to keep me in the woods. But I won’t be able to pee anywhere I want, or have a campfire.

    Best wishes for you and your tree. May the wood nymphs be with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • She’s a ponderosa and should be at about 2000’ higher elevation.
      I’m in a broad valley and can scan over rooftops about 20 miles west, same east, farther southeast. I can see mountains about 5 miles to the north. My “privacy” fencing is chain link. Ugh. I want privacy fencing but surely can’t afford it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I used to be 2000 ft. high myself! In my head. A pondering-oso-high.

        I envy your long view scenery a little. My trees do block that. But for an acre of them across the road blocking it, from my driveway I’d have a great view of the scenic side of the biggest mountain in town. Same property owner cleared a couple of acres illegally directly adjacent to those trees. Too bad he didn’t go a little farther. Standing at the opposite corner of his clearing, or at the far end of my road frontage, I can see that mountain scene and drool with envy. I do see three smaller mountains from my kitchen window, but over the years my trees have been growing over that view, too. I guess I’ll just have to go on being grateful for the forested privacy that YOU envy!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. So sorry to hear of the loss of your trees! That must have been quite a storm to experience! We’ve been through many windstorms. One night about 7 gigantic pines went down all around us. A few were removed for pulpwood with no further disturbance to the forest. When the road was blocked, we’ve had to disturb the peace with chainsaw noise. But with no access problems, I think your idea of leaving the downed trees in place will work well. Wishing you all the best, Leah.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Leah. Funny thing, I went out for a while in that wind (always fun, but it started raining like crazy, too), and I did not see or hear a tree gone down. They must have waited until I wasn’t looking.

      This many all at once — 70 — leaves me choosing to go with the chainsaw.

      I saw a tree today that I had missed on my count tour, on a path segment I overlooked. It is about 20 ft tall, the top of a big balsam, that snapped off and fell straight down, and remained standing straight with the help of adjacent trees, smack into the middle of the trail. It looks like a big tree just grew there overnight.

      Some poor squirrel is really annoyed that it has to go build a house somewhere else, and it had no home owners insurance.

      Liked by 1 person

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