Comfort in a Storm — My friend, the honey locust tree, saved my life

This is an essay I wrote that was published by Angles on Earth for their Sep/Oct 2021 Magazine. I’ve included the issue cover and article artwork as well. Please scroll down to read the essay.

How many times had I stood in just this spot, waiting for the bus? And yet in all that time I’d never noticed—never really noticed—the beautiful tree that stood beside me.

I was running late for work as usual that spring morning after a good rain. Styling my hair always seemed to take longer than I anticipated. I rushed up to the neighborhood bus stop and brushed against a low-hanging branch. Water showered over me. Ugh, I thought. Somebody really should trim this tree.

As I shook off the droplets from my hair, I looked up. And up. And up. The tree towered above the attic of a two-story house. Her trunk was stout—too wide to get my arms around. She was quite a tree. Maybe her spray was just a friendly “Howdy, neighbor,” and I forgave her for messing up my hair. The bus pulled up, and I plucked off a cluster of almond-shaped leaves before boarding.

When I learned the tree was a honey locust, I gave her a name. “Mrs. Honey Locust” I’d call her, because she seemed old and wise, like a grandmotherly angel. Now that I’d made her acquaintance, I looked forward to seeing her every day, rain or shine. “Thanks for the shade,

Mrs. Honey Locust,” I said on hot summer mornings. She responded with a wave of her branches. In the fall, she showered me with tiny golden leaves. Winter snow coated her in a flannel nightgown. She made waiting at the bus stop an adventure.

One day last August, I got to the bus stop early to be sure I wouldn’t be late for a hair appointment. I was desperate for a trim. “Hi, Mrs. Honey Locust!” I said, pressing my hand to her trunk. I heard a chirp from my bag and pulled out my phone.

“Severe weather warning for Johnson County,” the text read. “Wind gusts up to 80 mph. Seek shelter.”

“Oh, no,” I said, scanning the sky. “Not now.” There appeared to be no cause for alarm. No rain. A light breeze. Maybe the storm will miss us, I thought. I didn’t want to cancel my appointment. I glanced up at Mrs. Honey Locust for support. If anyone understood the importance of a good trim, she would. We waited for my bus.

Gray clouds gathered overhead, bruising the sky. The air smelled like rain. A strong wind rustled through Mrs. Honey Locust’s leaves. No sign of the bus, but I refused to give up as the street emptied.

I’ll be safer under the tree, I thought. I moved closer to Mrs. Honey Locust’s strong, sturdy trunk. That’s when I heard it. A voice from way above my head: “Run away now. Right now!”

I ran as fast as I could toward home. The wind whipped itself into a true gale. Shingles flew off the roof of my apartment building and smacked onto the street. It took a fiercely hard tug before the door flew open on its hinges. I ran inside for cover.

Outside, the wind howled. I heard a terrible crash. Not thunder. More like something heavy hitting the ground. The power flicked out. I shut all the blinds and tucked myself into the bathroom. I called to cancel my appointment. I could now see the danger I’d put myself in by refusing to heed the weather warning. I was lucky I’d listened to the voice from above.

It was midafternoon before the first bits of sunshine poked through the clouds. I breathed a sigh of relief. Then I heard another sound.

A power saw grinding in the distance. My stomach tightened with dread. I pulled on a raincoat and ran down to the bus stop.

Mrs. Honey Locust had snapped at the base of her wide trunk and fallen hard across both lanes of the street. Workers were already clearing away the tree. The bus stop sign was knocked over by a huge branch that had fallen right where I had been standing—until I heard the voice from above. Perhaps it had come from Mrs. Honey Locust herself, my friendly angel tree.


The storm that hit Coralville in August 2020 was a derecho, a widespread windstorm that moves in a straight line and can park over one area for quite some time. Mrs. Honey Locust, according to news reports after the storm, was 80 feet tall. “I took a handful of sawdust from around her stump,” Margalea says. “I thought it would he the only thing I had to remember her by.” But Margalea soon found a surprise on her doorstep. A box held wooden candleholders made from the tree’s branches. Friends Tom and Anna explained in a note: “We hope this represents in some small way the voice Mrs. Honey Locust was in your life.”

[Below is the writing as it appeared in the original publication.]

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