I think I was nine or ten years old. It was a hot summer day, like today, but it was a Sunday afternoon, and we were about to leave the house. My father had already gone out the back door and around the house to the garage, but I had delayed at the door, asking my mother to get something to take along - I don't recall just what. A moment after we went back into the kitchen, we heard that crack and whoosh, but much louder than that I heard today. A large branch had fallen from the tree directly onto the back porch. I remember the room turning darker as the light was blocked from the back window. The whole house shook from the force of the branch hitting the roof.
At first, I thought it was an earthquake, and (well-trained little Californian that I was) I leaped into the open doorway to the pantry. It happened very quickly, and in the silence that returned I looked toward the window and saw the mass of long, narrow, blue-green leaves pressed against it and realized what had happened. The back door was blocked, so we had to go out the side door. The hot air was full of the sharp scent of eucalyptus.
I had always worried about branches falling on the house in high winds, and sometimes had trouble sleeping on windy nights, for fear that a branch or entire tree might come crashing through the roof and crush me in my bed. But this was a perfectly still summer day. It was only after this that we were told that extremely hot weather is the time that the wood of the eucalyptus is most likely to break. Thereafter, I ceased to worry about the wind, but hurried past the trees in hot weather. I no longer worried about a branch crashing through the roof, either. The branch which had fallen was more than three feet in circumference and almost forty feet long, but hadn't done more than knock a few shingles from the roof. The sound, however, was quite impressive, particularly coming as it did in the calm and quiet of a Sunday afternoon.
My father worked long into that evening, cutting the branch up with a hand saw and stacking it in the back yard. We burned the wood in the fireplace the next winter, each loud pop and crackle of the fire reminding me of the sound of the branch breaking, and the aroma of the smoke recalling the scent which lingered in the air for hours after the branch fell.