October 3, 4, and 5, 2013, Winter Storm Atlas struck Rapid City, SD and surrounding areas and states. The devastation was horrible and widespread. After the tallies were made, it was estimated that at least 14,000 cattle, 1300 sheep, 300 horses, and 40 bison were killed, with South Dakota ranchers reporting losses of 20 to 50 percent of their herds.
I lived in Rapid City at the time. We were without power for three days, a result of the driving wet snow (over three and a half feet) and 70 mph winds. (Fortunately, we had a huge, nature-provided refrigerator right outside our back door – aka snow bank – , a camp stove, and a kerosene heater.)
We’d hiked up Crazy Horse, in the nearby Black Hills, just the week before. It had been a balmy autumn up to that point, with above-average temps. All the trees were still vibrant and green, full of their leaves.
And that was their downfall.
As the snow built up on the leaves of the trees, the branches simply couldn’t take the weight of all that moisture, plus the battering winds.
When we were able to go outdoors, no one could drive anywhere. We had 51” of snow in our driveway.
Wading over to the street, all anyone could see was snow and branches and green leaves piled on lawns and crowding the streets.
It didn’t look like God’s mercy or blessing.
Why do I post this now?
A memory came up on my Facebook page, from September of the next year, 2014. I will let that post tell the rest of the story…
Last March, on the first day of spring, I walked around our neighborhood in Rapid City and took pictures of the trees. As anyone who lives in Rapid can tell you, the trees had a sad story to tell, and they wore it on their sleeves, so to speak; except that most of them had no arms, due to the blizzard last October, which killed and maimed thousands of our green, leafy trees. Some of the trees simply didn’t make it, and had to be cut to the quick.
But others were pruned. I took pictures, last spring, of the trees, forlorn as they were; but radiating the hope that pruning represented. These trees were not cut down, assumed to be useless. Every vestige of life was spared, in the hope that they would return.
Did they? Please click through the pictures and see the hope revealed. I took new pictures this Labor Day weekend, summer’s last hurrah as it fades away into the sunset. The lush greens of summer are still in full view, and we may yet have a few hot days ahead. Even as whispers of cooler air and changing seasons bow in and out, most of us have felt autumn on the way.
These trees are reminders that God prunes us, in order to produce something beautiful. As I look at these trees, their scars are still evident, reminders of hardships endured. But, they are beautiful to behold, vibrant, giving, and full of promise.