Hey Hurricane Irma, you left a tree on my house!

“There’s a tree on my house.”

If you ever say these words out loud, your ears will hear them, question what was just said, and spark an internal debate: “A tree on my house? Is that what I just said? No! There can’t be a tree on my house.”

Only, yes. It IS a tree. And it’s leaning on my house. Look!

There it was. A photo in a text from my neighbor. My neighbor, Forest, stays through all the storms. Even better, he sends me texts, photos and videos at all hours. This year during Hurricane Irma he even streamed live video from his upstairs porch.

The news is always good. That’s what I was expecting when the texts came in the morning after the storm. But they showed damage on the street. A transformer dangling from a pole. A massive tree that took out power lines clear over to Riberia Street, two blocks away. Then I saw it. It was agonizingly slow to load, taxing the struggling cel network in the powerless neighborhood where my family had evacuated to. It was of a pink house — boy, that’s similar to mine! — with a big cedar tree parked against an upstairs porch.

GASP! “There’s a TREE on my HOUSE!!!”

And it’s at that moment — when the winds were still howling and the reality dawned that there was no way back to my house until the waters surrounding St. Augustine went down — that I thought about pouring top-shelf whiskey in my raisin bran.

For us, we were lucky. The tree is gone — cut up into tiny little chunks that I curse every morning. We lost power for almost a week, an AC unit died and hopefully by the time you read this, I have Internet and cable again. Remarkably, there was little damage to the house. I chalk that up to the fact that my addition was built with the intention of one day docking cruise ships.

It could have been worse. For others, it was. It’s heartbreaking to see neighbors spilling the insides of their houses out onto the street … again. The floodwaters came back. Not even a year later. I wiped away a tear as I drove around our downtown lake witnessing the piles of furniture and drywall and pieces of rebuilt lives that must be rebuilt again.

It’s hard to know what to make of it all. What was shock last year has turned to resignation and morbid despondency. People talk about whether it makes sense to rebuild. Or even stay. Can we do this again? Will it keep happening? How many times can you go through it?

It worries me. And I get it. But I hope it’s just talk. I hope it fades. One of the great things about this community — and about Floridians — is our innate ability to come together, and then to overcome. We’re crusty and stubborn and endure all manner of things just to see one of those early morning sunrises that make our jaws drop open.

The kind that helps us endure trees on our houses, and pouring whiskey on our cereal.

Also published on Medium.

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