A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

It’s been a while since my last post. Nearly two weeks. But I have an excuse, several in fact. I am in New York, which means there’s a lot to do to distract me from blogging. And the fact that I am writing a novel, which means any writing brainpower should be channeled towards that. And, best excuse of all, I survived a tornado!

OK, so there is no direct link between the tornado and my lack of blog posts but it’s really just an excuse to write about it. Being Irish, I haven’t really experienced extremes of weather before. When I see rain and lightning and wind that makes the tops of the trees going wild I think it’s just a storm. And even when the thunder claps are threatening to smash the window and it sounds like someone is tapdancing on the roof I think it’s just a bad storm. That’s what happened last Thursday, around five thirty and it was only half an hour later when all was quiet and I went to venture out to yoga I realised the extent of the damage.

For anyone who has never been to Brooklyn, the first thing that differentiates it from other boroughs is the trees. Each block has four or five or six of them –big sycamores and oaks and elms that push up the flagstones on the sidewalk. As I walked my short seven block walk to my yoga studio, I lost count of the number of them that had been hit. They had gaping holes where they’d lost branches, some still hanging on by a slim ribbon of wood. One was completely cracked in half, like a mirror of itself. The debris littered the paths and the roads, stopped some people getting into their houses. Cars drove slowly negotiating their way around fallen branches big as tree trunks, mounds of leaves. They stopped at each corner where the walk/ don’t walk signs were stuck on both. It was like something from a movie and on one corner where they’d been trying to make a movie I found three men standing around some crumpled piece of scaffolding, flattened and leaning onto the road, their hands on hips unsure of what to do.

By the next morning I found out it was a tornado, not just a storm. That someone in Queens had died. In Fort Greene Park the workers were out in force clearing up the damage, talking about overtime. The giant American Elm at the entrance on Willoughby had been struck, hundreds of years of tree split down the middle, felled, just like that. Someone had wrapped yellow tape around it, the kind like in the cop shows that they put around the bodies. Like a few other passersby I stopped and looked, watched the squirrels as they ran along the now horizontal branches, chased each other through the leaves.

It’s nearly a week later and everywhere is cleaned up, the sidewalks are clear again, traffic lights and train lines working. Some of the trees that are still standing are just hollow pieces of wood, reaching to the sky. They don’t know they’re dead yet. Most of them survived, their scars new and visible, light whitish wood where pieces of them were ripped away. After a while though the bark will grow back and you won’t notice the missing branches, their unbalanced shapes. And soon they’ll lose their leaves anyway, they’re already starting to, and in spring they’ll grow again and wait to ride out the next storm.


  1. Ev

    Great post Yvonne and love the title – one of my favourite 'coming-of-age' books.

  2. Hi Yvonne. Where are you in Brooklyn? I've spent lots of time in Carroll Gardens where Sally Kelly lived. Will you be there for a while? I'm over and back to NYC about 3/4 times a year.

  3. Thanks all for the comments!

    David – yep I know. Would you believe I've never seen that film?? (although I do get the reference!)

    Ev – thanks a mill, I'm actually reading it at the moment, really enjoying it. I like reading books about places where I am.

    Kate – I'm in Clinton Hill/Fort Greene, a couple of blocks from Pratt. I'm here till end of October so let me know if you're over before then!

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