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When God chopped down the lemon tree, she made lemonade

Leann Scalia created two flower boxes beneath her front yard pine trees.1 / 5
The June 17 tornado uprooted one and snapped off the other pine tree.2 / 5
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Scalia uses the roots to recreate her flower boxes.4 / 5
Photo by Brittin Roberts Leann Scalia stands by her renovated flower box as a reminder of the June 17 tornado.5 / 5

When a tall tree -- a veritable monarch among trees on Jefferson Street in Wadena for the past 100 years with a 26-inch trunk -- fell victim of the July 17 tornado, it missed hitting owner Leann Scalia, by a mere 3 or 4 feet.

This giant tree was one of the reasons why she chose this house when she moved to Wadena in 2007, so seeing it now, lying at her feet, was devastating, she said. It couldn't be replaced in two lifetimes.

Then, Scalia saw the magnificent root system that towered above her head, still hanging onto Mother Earth by one tenacious toenail, not ready to give up. It seemed to be saying, "Hey, I'm still here!"

A sixth sense, always just below the surface of what Leann decides needs doing -- you know, the one that makes her take in stray cats, like making a warm bed just inside the porch door for the village mongrel when temperature dips to a lethal low -- well, it kicked in now.

Leann said it beautifully: "As I looked at the root I thought it was still beautiful but in a different way. I could see it as a structure in a new flower bed. Flowering vines covering it. Butterflies and birds attracted to it. When a friend asked me where I got such an attractive piece of driftwood, I said 'God provided.'"

"I see this as not only giving me great pleasure, but I also consider it a gift to the city of Wadena," Scalia said. "It can be a visible reminder for us, that while we were uprooted in many ways, some of our roots are still well grounded and we will build something again. It will not look the same, but it will be beautiful.

"I also see it as on going evidence to visitors through town on Highway 71 who might in time forget the devastating tornado that hit us. But, this structure and flower garden can be a reminder to them what we have been through and what we have accomplished.

"I would also like to invite anyone who has a memory of that tornado to write their memories for me. I will compost the paper they have written on into the garden soil so that our memories, whether difficult, good, or bad, will be part of the soil that will feed the flowers in the future. It will be one more way that we will see something good come from something difficult."

Scalia commutes from her home at 513 Jefferson Street South to her job in Detroit Lakes where she is an instructor at M State.