Sunday, March 20, 2011

When the wind beneath your wings deposits you in a three-star hotel

When we first moved to Roseburg 14 years ago, everyone told us how it had the lowest wind velocity in the United States. But after Sunday's storm, all I had to do was step outside and behold the huge oak tree precariously leaning against our crushed roofline and chimney to say, “Lowest wind velocity, my eye.”

The tree right outside of our bedroom window decided to give up the ghost while we were at the library for a piano recital. The piano recital was spectacular in and of itself, with the lights going off five or six times. True to form, however, the students played right through, the darkness only adding to the drama of their pieces. During one particularly “stormy” piano selection, there were lightning, thunder and branches flying past the window behind the piano. I kept waiting for Toto to fly by.

After the recital, we wove our way around branches and debris on the roads to come home and discover that our oak tree had pulled up its roots and decided to go in search of greener pastures. These apparently were found on top of our house, our chimney and the closets on the first floor. As I write this, the tree is propped against our crushed roof right over our bedroom, and incidentally, my side of the bed. I'm trying not to take that personally.

Back at Christmas the same tree dropped an entire branch right over our room in the middle of the night. When it came crashing overhead Craig woke up and asked, “Was that the cat?”

But that was nothing compared to Sunday's storm. After the tree cutter-downer guy (I'm pretty sure that's his technical term), a friend in construction, the KPIC news crew and firemen left our premises, we piled into the car and headed over to the Holiday Inn Express. When we checked in, we were informed that we were the third person with a tree on the house. I'm thinking we need to start a club.

“Hi. My name is Eileen, and I have a tree in my roof.”

“Hi, Eileen.”

We got in the car to go find somewhere to have dinner and passed restaurant after restaurant closed due to power outages. However, our luck finally struck when we saw a big red apple gleaming through the darkening sky as we drove toward Applebee's.

The hostess met us at the door and said, “Welcome. I just need to tell you that we lost power and sent our staff home, and now that it's back on we only have half of our staff as usual. You'll get your food, but it may not be as quickly as you'd like.”

I smiled and said, “Look, we have a tree in our roof, so pretty much anything you can offer us is uphill from that.”

There were a few silver linings in the mess. A volleyball that had been trapped up in a tree was blown down during the storm. And our 15-year-old son was thrilled that he doesn't have as many leaves to rake next fall. So we've got that going for us.

Saturday evening I was bemoaning the fact that I didn't have a good topic for this weekend's column to my friend Jennifer. Shortly after she heard of our situation she sent me a message that read, “You did say you needed a column idea … ”

She's a funny one, that Jennifer.

Our 9-year-old daughter, Lily, took in the hotel and said, “I think this is at least a three- or four-star place. Can I go swimming now?” So she was handling the upheaval rather well.

As the night wound down, I looked at Craig and said, “If I had to be displaced, there's no one I'd rather be displaced with.”

And with that, we hunkered down for a night of rest with the wind still blowing outside … me and my favorite three people in the world … an island in the storm.

Eileen Burmeister lives, works and has a tree in her roof in Roseburg. She can be reached at

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