Miracle in the Storm

Living in Santa Cruz County, California, has been quite a wet and wild experience this winter. We have experienced storm after storm oversaturating our ground, flooding our creeks and rivers, blowing down our trees. The weather experts refer to it as an almost nonstop atmospheric river pounding our coastline.


The good news: our drought is finally over. The snowpack in the mountains is more than adequate. The reservoirs are full.


The bad news: flooding and destruction of property have displaced thousands. People have drowned or have been killed by falling trees. The ocean caused so much coastal damage that President Biden made a visit to our tiny town of Aptos, speaking in front of our destroyed pier.


Yet in all of this devastation, miracle stories abound. Joyce and I deeply believe in angels, great beings who are tireless in their protection of all of us. Just because some “bad” things are allowed to happen, we may not know how many catastrophes are prevented because of angelic intercession. Or why? But sometimes the sheer number of miraculous details become too hard to explain away as random happenings.


Here’s what happened to us on Tuesday, March 21. I was in the middle of a counseling session with a woman, while her husband sat in their car in our driveway watching their four-year-old daughter. Our cell phones all beeped with a severe wind warning. The wind became so strong, reaching 80mph, that we could not hear each other speak. Then the ground shook, followed by a thunderous crash. Moments later, there was a loud knock on the door and the man stuck his head in and said to me, “Sorry for interrupting but you better come out and see what happened.”


I ran outside and around the garage to the driveway. For the thirty-three years since we built and lived in our home, we have coexisted with a giant Monterey Pine tree on the side of our driveway. It was a beautiful and majestic tree, providing welcome shade on warm summer days. But it wasn’t all good. Also on those warm summer days, it rained sap onto our driveway, so parking underneath the tree could really mess up your vehicle.


Then there were the squirrels. As cute as they are, and as much as we love them, they loved to chew through the branches that held pine cones in place. It’s interesting to us living here on the central California coast that the largest trees on earth, the mighty Redwoods, have the smallest cones, maybe one inch long and weighing perhaps less that an ounce. However, the Monterey Pines, although not the smallest coniferous tree, have perhaps one of the heaviest cones. Especially before they open to release their seeds, they can weigh over a pound each. And this is for some reason the squirrel’s favorite time to release their bombs. We have had several broken windshields, dented vehicle roofs, not to mention the major risk of a broken skull. We have even wondered if the squirrels sometimes planned their attacks, aiming their bombs just for the fun of it.


People have over the years urged us to remove this tree, fearing the possibility that it might fall on our house or the apartment above our garage. But I have studied that tree carefully. I’m not an arborist, but in my time, I have taken down many a tree that needed to be removed. This particular giant was clearly leaning away from our buildings. I knew it would fall someday, but I calculated its trajectory as nearly missing our 250-gallon propane tank and landing well above a mobile home down the hill on our property.


The behemoth did fall mostly where I predicted, but nature had other plans. The massive root system pulled out of the earth, leaving large sections of asphalt pavement in disarray, looking more like the aftermath of an earthquake than a tree falling down. The roots lifted the nearly full propane tank into the air, where it perched at a forty-five-degree angle, amazingly still attached to the gas line coming out of the ground. Miraculously, there was no leaking, hissing, or smell of propane gas.


The huge root system also unearthed an electrical conduit, lifting it eight feet into the air. Inside was the power line connecting the garage solar panels and generator to our main service panel. Again, miraculously, the power line was still attached to the panel, although the conduit broke off the panel and the exposed wires were pulled out about three inches.


Then there was the final miracle. From where I stood, I couldn’t see my new truck parked in front of our camper. I feared the worst, imagining both with severe damage from the tree falling not perfectly where I planned it would fall. I always remember one of my mother’s favorite Yiddish sayings, “Mann tracht, und Gott lacht,” meaning man (or woman or they) plan and God laughs.


I rushed over, squeezed past all the branches, saw branches actually touching both the truck and the camper, without even a scratch on either vehicle.


That’s simply too many miracles to ignore. Yes, many would say we were just lucky. But we don’t believe that for a minute. We deeply trust that, at least this particular time, we were protected by spiritual forces that we cannot explain. And we feel we have a clear choice to be thankful for this protection, and for all the protection we have received in the past, or will receive in the future.

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