Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Our back yard
When November rolled into December, back in 2011, we were beset with winds unlike we’ve seen for decades, some say even a century, here in our sleepy little town of Farmington, Utah. We pride ourselves in our ability to handle the east winds that have for generations howled at our barn doors and bent these old scrub oak trees until they look like massive green waves flowing westward.  We’ve seen trains blown off their tracks, eighteen wheelers upended on the side of the freeway, and road signs bent like aluminum cans at the Farmington exits.
But this one was a show stopper, this wind of winter 2011. Most of our county was left in darkness for days. We huddled in blankets around our fireplaces, if we had them, while the wind whipped at our doorsteps. I stood at our family room windows, watching our massive evergreen trees topple, feeling the bones of our house rattle, praying our loved ones were safe.  It was a strange and distressing moment in time.  Outside, the ear piercing whistle pulsed and pulsed, driving us to the edge of madness.

And then it was over.  The wind ceased.  From my window perch I watched as one by one our neighbors and friends came out to the streets, assessing the damage, gathering up branches and fence pieces and roof tiles. It reminded me of those old black and white war movies, where survivors appear one by one from their hiding places after a monstrous battle. I joined my friends on the street. Together we pieced back what was repairable and took the rest to the curbside. Stunned at the massive loss of flora, we held our own grief because we knew our neighbors had suffered the same. We lost five beautiful pine trees, over 25 feet tall. We had planted them twenty years ago and they had grown into a large gentle wall of green behind our house. Even now, all this time later, I grieve the loss of the privacy they had given us.  I miss their loveliness as their arms cradled freshly fallen snow.
The storm hit on Thursday and Friday, ceasing her fury on Saturday.
Our church yard
 Sunday came, and with it the foreboding news of an impending snow storm. The streets were covered with fallen trees and debris, so much so that vehicles could not get around them.  Power lines were precariously hanging.  Cars were crushed under fallen limbs. A snowfall would be disastrous on top of all the debris. We are a close knit community in Zion, with a lot of faith and religious dedication. Most of us in this neck of the woods are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons. A rare decision was made to cancel church on Sunday.  Instead, we gathered in the chapel in our dungarees, our warm hats and work gloves.  We paused to pray, then we set to work. 
Our Bishop calls us together on Sunday morning.
Those who could heft the weight of massive branches moved through the streets loading volunteer trailers.  Others tended children, or cooked meals for the workers.

Faithful saints labor in the field.
I made three massive pots of soup and stew while I tended grandchildren and my able bodied children labored in the cold. Dave came in from working to help me haul the vittles over to the church. We loaded the van with food and children and drove up the cul-de-sac and down Summerwood Road.  We passed our son in law Jordon’s trailer, loaded to overflowing with tree branches and pieces of fencing. Our daughter Annie stood at the side, her gloved hand on her hip, wiping her forehead.  All around us were the sounds of chain saws growling.  Paul Rees had brought his large hauling trucks down from Morgan.  Brad Palmer’s backhoe dipped its shovel into the pile of gathered branches and lifted them into the truck bed. Children followed behind with rakes and brooms. 
What became of the trees in our back yard.
In an intentional moment of pause, Dave and I scanned the scene, touched to tears at the united effort of neighbor helping neighbor.  The first Sunday of every month our church holds a Fast and Testimony meeting.  Our congregation, having fasted for two meals, is invited to come to the pulpit and witness about our faith in our Savior. It’s one of the beautiful and unique aspects of our church that I love. This was December 4th and it would have been Fast and Testimony meeting that morning.  But on this particular day witnesses were born not by word, but by deed.

Brigham Young once said “More testimonies are gained on the feet than on the knees.”
God's witnesses.
Though I miss those grand old trees that lined the fence in our back yard, I am reminded every time I notice the empty space that united hands did in one day’s work what would have cost the government a pretty penny to get done. I’m reminded how blessed we are to live in this place, where the beauty is not only in the surroundings but in the people who call Farmington home.
The line-up of trailers at the Davis County dump site was over a mile long.  All volunteers.

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