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The three trees
that stand about a mile south
on what used to be “The Casebear Place”
mark where human familes once lived.
Homestead houses often had three or four
Juniper (“Red Cedar”) on the corners,
since they are the hardiest,
tallest,
best windbreaks up here on the prairie.
On my evening walks,
the three remaining cedars there on the Casebear Place
are often quite beautiful against the changing
evening sky,
as Earth rolls up
and sun disappears til morning.
Their irregular shapes
speak to the hard days they have weathered,
and survived. And for me there is quiet beauty
in their surviving shapes.
On a walk this beautiful morning,
enjoying the stillness,
the cool air,
the Meadowlarks singing to each other,
Maizey trotting alongside,
I top the rise in the prairie,
not quite to the pond, now drying,
just below where the old Casebear house
once stood.
I look up, toward the old trees,
and my legs stop moving.
I shout, “Oh no!”

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Those familiar friends
have been cut down.
A flood of feelings come.
Shock. Sadness. A sickness in my belly.
A flood of memories come.
People who lived there in my childhood.
After they left, other neighbors
moving that two-story white house
down the road on a giant truck. I remember
myself, as a young girl,
standing along the road at our house
watching with my sisters
as that huge house,
perched on a flatbed truck,
precariously,
listing to one side,
was slowly driven a mile north.
I remember holding my breath that day,
and others.

A flood of thoughts
arrive.
I never dreamed these trees would be gone
one day.
Never crossed my mind.
Who else even noticed them?
One of the three has died,
and that must have caught the eye
of our neighbor, who now farms the place.
Grasses from last fall are dry
and spring grasses are slow coming on this year;
with the drought, they may not come on much at all.
We live two miles from Interstate 35,
where fires are often sparked by people
throwing lit cigarettes out the window.
Cedars, especially dead ones, are highly flammable,
and burn hot.
I don’t know why, otherwise, these old trees
would be chopped down. Too “ugly” to even be noticed,
I guess I had thought—
them not being the model of symmetry and sun-drenched beauty;
rather, dark, straggly-looking silhouettes of struggle and survival
set against a vast, sometimes violent, sky.
As I turn away
for the walk home,
the strongest feeling I have
is sadness
that these lives are, suddenly,
gone.
The strongest thought I hold
is that, truly,
everything changes.
And then comes another: The birds and insects
who live and feed there
will find other food, other habitat. Maybe
it is time
for me to let the trees and all they represent,
go;
maybe I am free
to move along the road.