It’s like Lao Tzu said in chapter 76 of the Tao Te Ching. Our mightiest oak tree (140ish feet tall) didn’t fare so well in the snow event ice storm yesterday. It lost quite a few of its branches.

His next-door neighbor, the hunchbacked elm, came through with no ill effects. (It’s not bent under the weight of the ice; that’s how it always looks.)

Most of the town lost power; ours is projected to be back by Saturday at midnight. I lost count of all the downed trees just along the one-mile stretch of county road we take into town, where several of our neighbors were already hard at work with chainsaws and tractors, clearing the road. It was quite a thing, sitting in the dark last night, reading by a battery-powered lamp, repeatedly hearing the sharp crack and dull thud of branches in the forest plummeting to ground. We ended up having to travel to the east side of the Blue Ridge this morning in search of electricity and wi-fi. As I type, we’re fueling our stomachs and laptops at Panera Bread. We’ll probably migrate to a library this afternoon to do whatever work we can.

Our next-door neighbor was driving home yesterday afternoon when a falling tree clipped his truck and tore the ladder rack off. The clerk at Home Depot cheerfully informed us that her boyfriend had called to tell her that two trees had fallen on their doublewide. We expressed incredulity that she was even at work, let alone in bright spirits. “Well,” she said with a shrug and a smile, “it’s his house, not mine.” Besides, she said, they’d been talking for a while about moving. “Maybe this is just God’s way of telling us to get going!” she laughed. It could always be worse, indeed, and there will always be people who handle it more gracefully than you will.

All of this comes about as we’re planning to make some big changes over the winter in the two businesses we run which will involve some stress and belt-tightening for a while. It’s salutary to be reminded, especially at this time of year, to be grateful for what we’ve got without feeling entitled or complacent. The hard and unyielding will fall; the soft and pliant will overcome.

(Addendum: shortly after finishing this, the power went out as we were still sitting in Panera. The whole shopping center went dark. Apparently the outage stretches several miles north. And they didn’t even get any ice over here! I’m becoming convinced it’s me causing it. I feel like a character in a Christopher Moore novel — a confused schmo who wakes up one day to find that he’s been appointed the Angel of Death. Or, in my case, Anti-Electromagnetic Man, I suppose. We’ll see how long this library stays on the grid now that I’m here.)