Two weeks ago a major storm hit Chicagoland, damaging trees and power lines. In hindsight, we should have been in the basement instead of watching the mature trees in our backyard bend and strain in (we later learned) 80- and 90 mph gusts. We only lost a couple small branches, but neighbors had entire limbs fall on their roofs; trees snapped in half or uprooted. Our home was without power for nearly four days—during a time of 100 degree temps and high humidity.
We went into survival mode—buying ice for coolers; finding flashlights and our battery-powered camping fans (we kept two aimed at our dog during the day); and matches to light the gas stove. I remember thinking, this is like an inciting incident in a novel where the protagonist’s life is tossed into disarray.
Enter the heroes: neighbors helping neighbors clean up the debris; my son and his friends driving around helping folks clear their driveways; and the round-the-clock efforts of professional electricians, tree service workers, and many others. Businesses—like our local laundromat—stayed open on July 4th instead of taking a holiday.
The whole experience was full of meaning: winds of change; clearing/cleansing; goodwill toward others; living creatively in unusual circumstances. After the storm ended, there was a solitary gingko leaf plastered to the glass of our French doors that leads to our deck. It must have blown over from our neighbor’s front yard. It clung there the rest of the day, like a survivor. My husband apparently regarded it the same as I did—when he hosed debris off the house and deck, he was careful to leave the gingko leaf in place.
It felt like an important symbol, so I (later) looked it up. According to Eastern tradition, the ginkgo tree is considered to be a symbol of longevity and hope. A single leaf represents happiness. Beyond that, the tree has a natural resistance to disease, insects, and fire. I knew it. A survivor!
How fitting to have this symbol grace our door in the aftermath. It would seem that this storm was not only devastating, it also left us a gift of hope.