A tree fell on my car.
Well, that’s a terribly self-centered way to look at what happened on Tuesday morning. The car was a 2003 Toyota Corolla. It was a machine, assembled ten years ago out of glass, metal, and plastic. It wasn’t without sentimental value; it had carried me through a journey of well over 100,000 miles and ten years of life . . . and it was pretty and comfortable and mine. But it was a car that had been a part of this world for ten years with limited expectancy for continued usefulness. It is now of lesser value than the sum of its parts, or so I’m expecting Liberty Mutual’s assessor to inform me.
But in the grand scheme of things, the car is insignificant, let alone the fact that it was mine. Here’s a better way to say what happened Tuesday morning:
A tree fell.
It was a grand, noble maple tree. A sugar maple, I think. I can’t say precisely how old it was because the high winds that tackled it to the ground ripped the core of the trunk out of its stump and left a jagged, illegible record of its life. But it was an old, old tree. Older than me, I’m sure, and probably older than my parents or even my grandparents. It was a big old tree.
So for me to link that tree’s demise with that of my car just because it’s my car . . . that just seems impossibly screwed up to me.
I can think about why the tree fell in terms of how it affects me or, worse, how I may have affected it. And isn’t that how we’re tempted to think? Why did this happen to me? What might I have done to bring this ginormous tree crashing onto my car? But it didn’t happen to me. I was there. Well, I wasn’t even there, my car was. It happened. For me to wonder for even a millisecond what role my existence played in the atmospheric struggle that brought this tree to the earth . . . or to my Toyota, ending its considerable life atop my insignificant vehicle would be nothing short of self-absorbed.
Superstition isn’t the belief in something bigger and invisible, it’s the belief that one’s own influence in the universe is bigger and more powerful than it really is.
Because my car was there in the street when the storm played Paul Bunyan, a lot of people have gazed at the wreckage and expressed their grief over my loss. I admit, I’m one of those people. But the big loss is not my Corolla. It’s not my need for a rental. It’s not the bits of glass still peppering the street.
A tree fell. A grand and noble tree that has been a part of this spot on the landscape of our world for generations has been broken, dismembered, and carted off. In the vast configuration, that’s the story. It was a beautiful thing, and I’m sad to see it die.