mysterious sounds from above

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a passing helicopter / sneakers on grass / unidentified bird calls

     When I was a child, my father repeatedly warned me to watch out for falling branches. Each time I thought, what a strange fear to have. He said that it would sound like a clap of thunder, a rolling crack from above as I walked home from the bus stop, up the hilly path flanked by old decaying pine trees. Strapped into my backpack and lugging my cello case, I moved slowly, and I feared that a falling branch would crush my body or split my skull, brains spilling onto the rocky ground. I developed the cautious habit of looking up while I walked.

     Though the dead trees were eventually cut down, I walked that path for years and never heard the crack, never watched a branch fall. But sometimes in the afternoon they were there on the ground nonetheless, bisecting the gravel, and I didn’t have any proof that they even came from those same trees above. If so, did they clap like thunder, and did anybody hear? Were they set down gently, silent offerings from the old trees to new growth?