I’ll never forget that September afternoon back in 2017. It happened on Monday, September 11th, to be exact. Hurricane Irma had wreaked havoc on the Alabama Gulf Coast, causing major damage. The category-5 hurricane claimed the lives or 134 people, and did over 77-billion dollars in damage. By the time the monster’s remnants reached Opelika, it seemed like no big deal; however, the weakened winds were still strong enough to uproot a giant tree at the edge of my neighbor’s rain-soaked yard. That 105-foot-tall poplar sliced through our fence and our house like a monstrous-serrated knife through a cake. No one was home, except Jean. By God’s grace, she was not injured. I could hardly believe my eyes when I pulled onto our driveway. Before that moment, I had never paid any attention to the size of that tree. The downed tree stretched over our driveway and completely across our house from one end to the other. It destroyed the roof and several of the rafters over our garage, demolished our newly-rebuilt chimney, and ripped holes through the roof over the main part of our house. All total, it caused over $40,000 worth of damage to our house. The uprooted tree’s destruction was a sickening sight!
We hired a tree service to come in with trucks and cranes to remove the invader. Once the tree was on the ground, they removed the limbs and cut the trunk up into several-large logs. I gave several of those logs to my friend William. They loaded them onto his trailer, and he took them to a local sawmill and had them sawed into boards. A few weeks ago, a friend gave me several live-edge boards of cedar, so I asked William if he could bring his big trailer and help me pick them up. When he arrived, I noticed several other boards were already on his trailer. I didn’t give them much thought until we had unloaded my cedar, and William said, “Those other boards are yours too.” When I asked what they were, he said, “Those are boards from your poplar tree!”
Often, what appears to be the worst and perhaps ugliest thing possible, in time, becomes something beautiful. The Apostle Paul said, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” Four-years ago, while the carpenters were there to repair the damage to our house, we hired them to also add an attached and covered back porch. Later that year, that porch became my retreat as I recovered from cancer surgery. Then, last week, for Christmas, I gave Jean a 20-inch-long charcuterie board that I had fashioned from one of the boards from that fallen tree. The heartwood of a poplar has a greenish-yellow vein that runs through it that is stunning. It doesn’t even need to be stained. I simply sanded it, oiled and sealed it, and it looks amazing. As I stared at the beauty of my finished project, I was struck by the memory of how grotesquely-ugly that fallen tree had looked as it protruded from our house, but how a portion of it had now become something so beautiful. No doubt, I will use the rest of my boards to build other beautiful pieces too.
When a monstrous tree is sticking through your house, or some other tragedy has hit, it is hard to imagine how something good, not to mention beautiful, could ever come from it. If you are staring at something ugly in your life, hang on…you may be pleasantly surprised what comes from it.
— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal Wednesday edition. Visit brobillybob.com for more information.