Branches, branches, everywhere, nor any tree to climb

On Wednesday night a storm blew through our neighborhood. And by blew I mean it was fast, not that it provided us with a stiff breeze. My weather app said “chance of showers” overnight. A 30% chance, in fact. And even having spent my entire life up until 2011 in the Midwest–albeit not the super tornado-y portion of the Midwest–I’ve never seen a storm do this kind of damage in real life.

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Dietrich had been crying for hours before the husband and I went to bed and we attributed it to a sore back. When we woke up to the storm at midnight, a crack of thunder woke the husband so suddenly and so completely he got a charley horse. The power went out, which it will do when all the wires are wrapped around trees and lying in the middle of the street.

Some trees came up by the roots, obviously laid flat by wind. Others–lots–were hit by lightning and some once-magnificent trees are now really sad stumps. This one is next door to us:

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Yesterday morning on our run, the little oyster and I felt like we were in a video game. Jump, go around, slow down, jump again, duck. I couldn’t run on Thursday morning because there was nowhere TO run. Even yesterday morning was dicey. This morning I ran by myself (it’s my birthday, happy birthday to me!) and continued to gawk at the trees, limbs, and branches, branches, everywhere. I ran past one enormous tree that had seemed to provide eternal shade one street over from us. It was split in half by lightning and while it looks like a normal tree on one side, on the other it is flat and black. You might think the lightning trees smell like camping or something tasty. They don’t. They smell like burn. 1 billion volts of burn.

Most of the pine trees that came down came up by the roots. Yesterday when the crews started cutting them a piece at a time for removal the whole neighborhood smelled like Christmas. There were six cars under the tree below, and another half-dozen trees of the same size felled in a perfectly straight line right behind this one, like pine dominoes. Those roots are easily 35 feet in the air.

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Here’s the thing: I love a good storm. This was not a good storm. When the sisters and I were little girls and a storm came through our neighborhood, we would stand at the front door and watch the sheets of rain drive down the street, watch the clouds turn colors and snap lightning back and forth. It was always beautiful. I love the refreshing aftermath of a good thunderstorm. I have always felt like the trees and flowers bounce back a little greener, the rain scrubs everything clean, and the thunder and lightning are magnificent. A solid thunderstorm has always, to me, looked like everything was working in tandem, the weather, the trees, the rising water, all in it together. Nature! But Wednesday’s storm felt like nature turned in on itself and started devouring. It felt like all that was rooted in the earth was prey for what blasted down from the sky and stood no chance. It felt wrong and dangerous. This is what people mean when they talk about a storm raging.

The storm included a microburst that struck only our neighborhood. Essentially the opposite of a tornado, a microburst is an incredibly powerful and concentrated downdraft that smashes things flat instead of lifting them up and tossing them around like a funnel cloud does. This explains the havoc that a regular thunderstorm simply wouldn’t have wreaked. A house three streets over is split in half by a huge tree. Shutters from our buildings were scattered like cheap confetti.

Cars were crushed as if our streets are a movie set. We are grateful that ours, which is the little red Toyota below, wasn’t one of them:

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We are all safe, though Dietrich lost enough fur to carpet a small condo. Clean up and power restoration started first thing on Thursday morning and the chainsaws and wood chippers are still going today. The mess was incredible but the clean up efforts have been impressive.

But now our gorgeously verdant neighborhood has bald patches; trees left standing have been shorn like sad little sheep, while others are twisted into macabre Seuss-like creations, jutting and jagged. It’s sad. I miss our trees. I miss our shade. I miss our green. I miss our beauty. And because we are all safe, even those in damaged homes, it is easy to say that things could have been worse. Truly, things could have been much worse. But the loss of beauty is still a loss and while capable crews work hard to set things right again, I’ll feel free to shuffle down our streets and mourn it.

It’s like I know what I’m doing or something!

I forgot to mention that the other week two different people stopped me in two different locations to ask me for directions.

Pretty sure I grew an inch each time.

The first person flagged me down as I crossed the street in Old Town Alexandria and asked if I knew how to get to the Target on US 1 from where we were. Why yes, yes I do, I told her, and gave her simple, you’d-think-I-was-a-native directions to the very Target at which I shop. And from which one can see the Washington Monument, by the way.

The second person stopped me as I walked down a street and asked me if I knew how to use the parking meters that print parking receipts you are supposed to display on the right side of your dash. I did, in fact, know how to work the machine, which is a little different from the other receipt meters in the area. I knew because I had blundered my way through it an hour earlier, but he didn’t need to know that. He hadn’t asked. He just wanted to know if I knew how to make it work, and the answer to that was yes.

Look at me go. It’s as if I know what I’m doing around here.

Then this morning Dietrich ate a bird in the backyard and I realized, upon finding a pillow’s worth of gray feathers in the middle of the lawn and a dog gagging in the garden, that some things are beyond even the most urban-aware of us. Sigh.

Normal height again.

Dietrich’s big day

Today the husband and I finally took Dietrich to a dog park. In the old days we went to the dog park close to our house all the time, but these are the new days and we haven’t been since we moved. You might say, “A dog park? That sounds like a really yuppie thing to do.” Newsflash: We’re yuppies.

Dietrich is a pretty chilled out dog. Even if he’s about to piddle with excitement at the words “bark park,” he won’t let on. Instead, he lays down on the ground and pretends to sleep, as if it’s no big deal, doesn’t really care if he goes or not.

Then we get in the car. And the true emotion takes over.

The bark park! I! Can’t! Wait!

A few seconds later his jowls created drag sufficient to whip his head backwards against the door frame and he came back inside for the duration of the drive.

When we pulled up to the dog park (hooray, GPS!), the husband and I had a quick moment of minor panic.

The husband: Umm. Is it a small-dogs-only dog park?
Me: I don’t know. Did it say anything on the Alexandria site?
The husband: Not that I noticed.
Me: Well let’s just read the signs before we go in. It is a rather minute crowd, now that you mention it.
The husband: HA! I bet I know why. All these people live in apartments. These are apartment-sized dogs.

And so they were. Though not a dog park designed or intended only for small dogs, the one-handers there outnumbered the big dogs 3:1, easily. Dietrich, who is too slow to keep up with the fast dogs, too tall to play with the small dogs, and too little to play with the king size dogs, usually bounds merrily between the packs before whoring himself out to any owner with two hands free to pet him.

We spent a great hour at the bark park before packing up to stroll the streets of Old Town Alexandria for the rest of the afternoon. Dietrich is a great guy for minding his own business and he’s easy to walk through crowds, though he tends to attract the attention of children and single young women.

Meandering down King Street as we were, a young mom with a two-child stroller stopped us and asked if her little girl could pet our dog. Absolutely, we said, and made Dietrich sit down in front of the stroller so the adorable little tyke could pet him. The mom had asked another woman a few blocks back if the little girl could pet her dog and was told no. The little girl cried. As the mom recounted the story, she mentioned that it’s good for her little girl to learn that she can’t always have what she wants (I think I love this woman), but that since the little girl pretends at home that she’s a puppy, having the chance to pet one makes her day.

Hopping out of her stroller cost her some of her confidence, but when I showed the little girl that Dietrich’s tail is like a paint brush and we painted her nails with it, she decided she had found the less intimidating end of him and wouldn’t let go. She painted her nails, her shoes, her face and her stuffed animal before deciding to wag Dietrich’s tail for him. With both hands.

Dietrich was a champ. Although we have complete confidence in his temperament around small people, having strange kids poke his eyes and wag his tail is reassurance to us that he’ll be a great big brother someday.

Soon we were joined by the little girl’s grandfather, visiting from Albania. He took pictures of her hovering over Dietrich and then pictures of her holding his tail in the air. As we said goodbye and I called the dog’s name, the grandpa asked if the husband and I were German.

Me: Oh, way back in our families we both are.
Friendly grandfather: So you do not speak any of the German?
Me: No, we don’t speak any.
Friendly grandfather: Are you sure?
Me: Yes, I’m sure. Are you from Germany originally?
Friendly grandfather: No, always from Albania.
Me: Well it’s very nice to meet you.
Friendly grandfather: And you. Auf Wiedersehen, Dietrich.

The young family just moved to the DC area from Ohio, so we chatted about weather and being new. The young mom has a brother-in-law living in our old hometown, of all places. As we went on our ways, she said she hopes they will run into us again sometime, and I said likewise. Considering that the husband and I saw the same dog in a ridiculous monkey sweater three times on our walk, I say it’s a definite possibility.

Before it got dark, we were on our way home. Before we got home, Dietrich was on his way out.

Hey, it’s a big head to haul around all day.

We’ll just chat with him tomorrow.