Every morning, Sophie and I go for a walk. When we come home, Sophie eats her breakfast while I make my own breakfast, aka ALL the veggies. Then I eat, quite leisurely, often while catching up on my RSS feed or my email, while she watches me with the intensity of a cat at a mouse hole. Finally, I take my last bite, set my bowl down, and say, “Is it time?”

She says, “Oh, yes, yes, yes, it is, FINALLY!” with dancing dog delight, circles and bouncing and little dashes in front of my feet. I grab my second cup of coffee, and we go into the backyard, where I sit in the far back, next to the fence, with the ChuckIt. She finds her ball and for the next thirty minutes or so, I hurl the ball for her and she retrieves it, while I also enjoy my coffee and do a Japanese lesson or ten. I am pretty sure it’s her favorite time of day.

Today started out no differently.

I threw the ball once, maybe twice, and then heard a sound. A crack. I glanced around me, wondering what it was, and where it came from. Maybe one of the neighbor’s houses?

I heard it again.

Again, I couldn’t tell what it was. Generic crack noise. I looked around, couldn’t see anything that would be causing it.

Sophie, however, was standing on the other side of the big tree in front of me, staring up into the branches.

I looked up, even though I didn’t know how a squirrel could be making that sound. It was definitely not a squirrel-type sound.

I couldn’t see anything.

Again, CRACK.

I got up, ChuckIt in hand, and went over to where Sophie was to see if I could see what she was looking at.

And… CRACK, followed by a second or two of slow motion realization of what was happening, followed by a mad dash away from the tree amid frantic calls of “Sophie, Sophie, with me!”

And then lots of crashing and crackling sounds as the enormous branch breaking off the tree hit the electric wires and took them out, blue sparks flying.

A big branch of a tree

The branch

A tree with a jagged break in the trunk where an enormous branch has broken off

The spot where it broke off

A chair under the big branch with dangling power lines

The chair where I was sitting, with my coffee mug. Note the location of the power lines. (They’re the ones on the ground.)

I’m gonna say that I don’t think the branch would have killed me, unless I’d still been sitting in the chair as it started to come down and made a super bad decision about which way to run. But I think if I’d been a little less curious about what Sophie was looking at and a little slower to react, the electricity from the power lines very well might have.

From beginning to end — from first sound to calling Sophie away — was maybe thirty seconds? Maybe a whole minute, if the time between cracks was longer than I remember.

It was a memorable minute.

I’m trying to find meaning in it — a message from the universe! — but sometimes things don’t have big metaphorical meanings. It’s just lightning. It struck, it missed.

But if it had happened ten minutes earlier, we wouldn’t have been outside. It still would have been one of those, “Wow, crazy,” experiences, but it would not have been a near miss in any way.

And if it had happened ten minutes later, I would have been immersed in a Japanese or Spanish lesson. I wouldn’t have been paying as much attention to Sophie or to strange unidentified background noises.

Death by Duolingo.

Jamie was asleep and missed the whole thing but we laughed together afterwards about what an awful way it would have been to wake up. Dark humor, but ugh, can you imagine?

As it was, my day went on. The electric company came, and eventually the internet company, too. I went and visited my friend Lynda for that cup of coffee I’d missed, plus, as always, good conversation and a little bit of writing time, and then some lunch.

When we got home, Sophie wanted to play ball, of course, so we did, even though the backyard is decidedly no longer fenced. (You can sort of see in the third picture how the fence collapsed under the top of the branch.) Tomorrow the landlord’s dad, Mike, will come over, probably bringing a chainsaw, and start clearing it all away. I’m hoping he’ll decide to fix the fence, not just tear it down, but either way, I’m sure Sophie and I will still be playing ball back there.

I will probably not, however, be sitting under the power lines when we do.