“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” — Dr. George Berkeley, Anglican Bishop and philosopher in the 1600s.
The answer, according to Berkeley, is that yes, it did make a sound, because God heard it.
Many philosophical discussions have taken multiple versions of this quote and made groups of scholars, experts and down to even social gatherings of people ponder the question of whether something exists without being perceived by consciousness?
Though Berkeley was thinking of the the abstract and the religious aspects the quote could render, the literal meaning behind the quote became reality for many on Feb. 15.
Somewhere down the road, whether it be five, 20 or 40 years from now, we will be talking about how we survived the “Icepocalypse of 2021” or whatever it has been dubbed at that time.
We will sit around the Thanksgiving table and tell our children and grandchildren about the winter storm that blew in during the evening of Feb. 15 and began a week of turmoil, destruction and a scary situation in which many had not witnessed before.
We will talk about how nearly 75% of Wayne County and a large number in West Virginia suffered without electricity for a week, some way more.
We will talk about how generators flew from the shelves before they could be stocked, how we had to drive for miles and miles to obtain gasoline, how we gathered around fire places if we were lucky and buried ourselves in blankets to keep warm.
We’ll talk about the complete loss of connectivity here in much of Wayne County as internet, cell phone service and landline telephone service was knocked out and didn’t return for at least a few days for some — again, weeks for others.
We’ll talk about how the National Guard was deployed to help restore services, how crews from multiple agencies worked tirelessly night and day to return us to our normal lifestyles.
We’ll talk about the cleanup efforts which lasted weeks and weeks after the storm had reared her ugly head and retreated leaving her destruction.
But, for me, the discussion will always include talk about the ferocity of the near-inch ice levels that knocked down thousand of trees in the Tri-State area.
I’ll talk about how my family of three sat in our house in Wayne, West Virginia, in the dark due to lack of electricity and listened to those trees pummel the ground all around our neighborhood.
I’ll talk about watching through my living room windows while my neighbors ran out the door each time a tree crashed a little too close for comfort to their homes.
I’ll talk about squeezing my husband’s SUV through the tight gaps of then only resident-cut trees in order to rescue my mother from her home in which she had been trapped due to impassable roadways.
I’ll talk about grabbing the ice-ridden branches of both downed and in-tact trees as I hiked hills, yards and even driveways in efforts to keep myself on my feet while trying to get around outside. I’ll talk about how that didn’t always work.
And, I will ALWAYS talk about how when each tree fell, it sounded like a war zone. How each snap send a jolt through my whole body, and a second jolt when the branches hit the ground. How I held my breath waiting to see where the fall occurred.
It’s the trees for me. It’s the discussion point to which I’ll always return. It’s how I was both enveloped in both a dark, eerie and quiet wasteland and at the same exact time sitting in the center of a war zone.
Dr. George Berkeley had his chosen answer to the age-old question in the 1600s. Now, many of us have ours in 2021.
If a tree does in fact fall in a forest and no one is around to hear it, it most definitely makes a sound and it is a very, very scary one.
Nikki Dotson Merritt is the Managing Editor of the Wayne County News.