David J. Phillip / AP

In September of 2008, Hurricane Ike made landfall in Galveston, Texas with a Category 5 equivalent storm surge and winds up to 120 mph at its center.  Originating off the coast of Africa, Ike was responsible for at least 195 deaths:

Of these, 74 were in Haiti, which was already trying to recover from the impact of three storms earlier that year…  In the United States, 112 people were killed, and 23 are still missing. Due to its immense size, Ike caused devastation from the Louisiana coastline all the way to the Kenedy County, Texas region near Corpus Christi, Texas. In addition, Ike caused flooding and significant damage along the Mississippi coastline and the Florida Panhandle. Damages from Ike in U.S. coastal and inland areas are estimated at $29.6 billion (2008 USD), with additional damage of $7.3 billion in Cuba (the costliest storm ever in that country), $200 million in the Bahamas, and $500 million in the Turks and Caicos, amounting to a total of at least $37.6 billion in damage…  The hurricane also resulted in the largest evacuation of Texans in that state’s history. It also became the largest search-and-rescue operation in U.S. history.

Besides the devastation to homes and infrastructure, loss of life, billions of dollars needed for repairs and damage to Galveston’s tourism, it was also an ecological disaster.  As Swamplot noted in November 2008 (bold casing from original article): (more…)


I have always been a tree person. In my childhood home, there was a huge Kentucky Coffee Tree growing on our front lawn. I rearranged my bed so that it was up against the window and I could lie looking up through the branches when I went to bed.

I have fallen deeply in love with many Canadian trees in my life, in fact — a weeping willow at my aunt’s farm that I used to sit under, a gnarled old apple tree at the same farm all by itself on a hilltop, a giant oak that was a couple of hundred years old in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

I even bought a painting last year by a New Brunswick artist from Etsy of the silhouette of a tree against a starlit sky.

And so it’s like I’ve died and gone to tree heaven since I moved to the D.C. area, which is really just one gigantic, lush forest. The reason I fell so in love with the house I am in right now was because of the big forest-like backyard that I stare out at all the time. It’s like having a view.

And all spring, I have been watching this crazy Dr. Seuss-like tree erupt beautifully outside my and my son’s bedroom windows. I didn’t have a clue what it was. Its branches are curved and exotic, like something you’d see in Japan. Suddenly, these greeny-yellow, four-petaled flowers showed up, before any leaves. They slowly got bigger and bigger and bigger; almost cartoonish. It took me weeks to figure out that this is the famous dogwood tree — all my life I thought a dogwood was an entirely different tree. And if  you’ve never seen one before, you really must. They are really breathtaking.

But so is everything here right now, beyond the world-famous cherry blossoms. I have never seen so many flowering trees — pears, apples, dogwoods, weeping cherries, etc. Everywhere I go, I just sort of gaze around in astonishment. It’s like a fairyland, it really is.

The photo above is the view out my bedroom window of the lovely dogwood.

So let me tell you about my university boyfriend, Steve, a guy who looked like Jeff Bridges in his prime, introduced me to Hunter S. Thompson and Public Image Limited and made me laugh harder than anyone I had ever known to that point in my life. He was also a hard-core partyer, which added to the glamour factor for me. He was 27 and I was 21 when we met, and to say that I fell in love would be a gross understatement. I fell STUPIDLY in love. And so when he asked me to move in with him one week, and then dumped me a week later on a street corner at 3 a.m., the heartbreak was profound and intense.

And the hits just kept on coming. Not content to just break it off with me and break my young heart, he kept getting back in touch to sleep with me every month or so, and, being young and naive and still unaware that men were quite capable of sleeping with women without it meaning a goddamned thing, I kept thinking that he must still love me and we’d be getting back together. WRONG!