We tend to take for granted all the things that make it possible for us to walk down the street every day: the concrete, the earth, the trees that give us shade and oxygen. On a nice spring day when the sun is shining and the leaves are green and the smell of lilacs tickles your nose, it's easy not to notice all the little things that make our lives so easy. It's easy to get mired in some anonymous annoyance, pacing past and thinking on myriad problems, pounding the concrete with your feet assuming that all the buildings and lampposts and telephone poles and cars and trees and pavement and windows and shingles and bricks and earth that surround you each every day are sturdy and unmoving will support you forever and its almost as if they owe you something.
That's why its so bizarre and strange and completely disconcerting when something comes along and shakes up your world completely. Something like a tornado.
The sidewalks of North Minneapolis are very strange these days, after the tornado blew through town and killed one person and completely moved around all kinds of things we take-for-granted every day.
For one thing, you can't really walk down the sidewalk with any sort of consistency, though things are improving every day. There are all sorts of trees and trunks and large branches that bar your way, forming a sidewalk steeplechase, so that lots of people just opt for walking right down the middle of the street and the cars and trucks traveling the city slow down accordingly. (So many trucks! Trucks of all sizes and shapes and with all kinds of various trailers and hydraulic lifts and appendages and devices.)
And you become very aware of just how many trees there are and used to be and how large they in fact were, and how very deep and wide their root system extended. This becomes clear because of the way that the ground is upearthed, that giant swaths of dirt and root and layers of earth like an indelicate cake have been pushed and pulled out of the ground, exposed to your eyes and hands for the first time.
And you become very aware of how many trees and branches there used to be up above your head absorbing the sun, covering you with cool shade, branches that were previously overhead stretching up into the sky but are now mounting higher all about you on every boulevard and edge and patch of grass along sidewalk curbs. They mount up, collecting on the streetcorners like snowbanks and the rich earthy smell of dead and dying treebranches lingers in the concrete, the odd mix of life and death.
[A neat stack of former-tree.]
And you're very aware now of the sudden fragility of rooftops, how easily they seem to strip themselves of their most important qualities, things like water resistance and having no holes.
And you're aware of the ubiquity of powerlines, as they all seem to have come down all around you through the trees and across the yards like some giant spiderweb fallen from the sky. And the men in trucks appear in all the alleys moving slowly and constantly, waltzing to the whine of a thousand chainsaws everywhere cutting through broken wood.
Little bits of shingles are all about underfoot. The sidewalk is four feet in the air. Houses are covered in plastic tarps. People are out on the street walking around and talking and slowly we all get to work.
[A concrete slab, now angled quite upward, no longer seems to be a sidewalk.]