By Phyllis Galowitz

I was walking along Route 28 on this perfectly beautiful, almost fall day beside Bryants Brook, the water level as high as it could be without spilling over the banks, swiftly roiling by as I kept time to its sound, the leaves above my head beginning to fall in a slow dance. New England asters, bright purple with yellow eyes, contrasted sharply with goldenrod and New York asters, paler and not as showy, but blooming profusely. Before returning home I stopped to pick a bouquet that included purple clover and Queen Anne’s lace.

When Hurricane Irene struck, just a couple of weeks ago, I was in Brooklyn visiting my sister-in-law, Ruth. I saw the devastation of the trees in Prospect Park where I walked in the mornings, and marveled at how quickly the Parks Department cleaned up the felled trees. When I saw what was happening in Brooklyn and heard on the news how the hurricane affected the Catskills, I worried about my house.

My next-door neighbor and good friend, Joe Grieco, called me in Brooklyn to tell me that the hurricane had struck some trees on my property, but assured me that the house was fine and dry. It was comforting to know that the house was not hurt, but I wondered how much damage was done by the trees that had fallen.

Buses were not running. The Thruway was closed and I heard of the terrible losses from Phoenicia through Arkville, Fleischmanns and Margaretville. When, a few days later I was able to board a bus to take me home, I saw the horrors that the hurricane brought to countless families and businesses: homes swept away, cars buried in muck, furniture and appliances that were buried in water and mud waiting to be carted away. How were these people going to live? Where would they go? Did they have insurance? Probably, most of them didn’t. All the way home I worried about how people could cope with what had happened and what I would find on my own property. It brought Katrina closer to home.

The bus was approaching Andes. The kind driver let me off within walking distance of my house. Everything looked fine from where I stood. After a quick inspection of the inside, I was delighted that the basement was dry; the backyard was another story. A huge Norway Spruce broke halfway down and in falling, swept away several trees and bushes in its path. Fortunately, as it toppled downhill, it stopped an inch from the house. Also, fortunately, it did not fall in the other direction, where it would have damaged my neighbor’s house. After some extensive research, I settled on a tree service called Top Notch, which had been highly recommended, and I was glad to have made that decision.

David Atkin, his wife Karen and their daughter, Jacqueline, a student at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, who was home for the weekend, all worked together as a team and like a perfectly performed ballet, each knew his and her job and how best to work together. David operated the heavy machinery, Karen grabbed the cut part of the tree and tossed it to Jacqueline, who fed it into the chipper. When they finished removing the limbs and trunks of all the damaged trees, there was nothing to clean up after them. What a nice family they are, and how they made a job that seemed daunting to me, as stress-free as possible, given the wet, muddy conditions in my backyard. It will be awhile before the naked area that once held those beautiful old trees fills in and the grass and groundcovers that disappeared with the trees, hopefully grow back to fill that whole side of the hill behind the house. It will take some thought to figure out how to balance that side with the other, densely overgrown side. But I’m lucky. My house is in fine condition. The water is going down in the backyard and if we get some more warm, sunny days like today, all will be well! ~


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