As if being called by the wild, I turn right coming from work, off HWY 83 and I find myself at our little farm again. It is becoming spring and I want to smell the dampness in the corner of the shelter-belt, but most of all, I want to visit my old friend the giant cottonwood, the oldest man in the forest. As I make my way through the shrubbery and winters debris, I find him, and his limbs are reaching upwards as if stretched by the release of gravity. His limbs are spindly, spidery and his leaves are just presenting. Time is taking its toll on my childhood friend. I think of my own age, edging near 60 now and remember he was large when I was a child. I wonder how old he is, the old man. I bet he is at least 100. I don’t have to ask how the environment and elements have treated him, for that is evident. He clings to life as if he still has something to say, even though half of his body has now fallen away from itself. For another season though, he will be in his glory soon and I will remember climbing up there, his leaves as wide and bigger than my own hands. I can see where the water below used to be, but is now just a dried basin stream, artificially made by the draining of the city wells. Whispers of the wind are roaming through the trees, the movement of them is erratic. I stand on what was once part of the old cottonwood, it creeks and small pieces of bark turn loose, dusting toward the ground as if saying it is time for me to go and I am saddened. Through the saplings you can see another large tree here and there, different kinds, sizes and shapes, some trimmed by wildlife, others growing through the shade as tall single poles. Many are the times laughter met the breeze and blended with the sound of the rustling old man in the wind. Brothers and a little sister scurrying there. Little sister mostly watching as she clutches her little doll, her friend, not a boy. Both of their hair is tasseled in the breeze. She stumbles through the underbrush, all the while not really realizing so many eyes are watching, making sure she is safe, even though we are probably hanging from the limbs like monkeys. Randy always interested and looking for whatever he might can take apart or burn. He needed watching just as much as little sister did, just ask him when you see him. For a moment I was taken back with visions of what used to be and how everything was so large and grandiose. How the trees and the old man made us feel so small, yet protected underneath their shadows from the sun. I look back at the old man with a tear in my eye, for him too, time has not stood still. His small leaves wave back at me as I touch him gently, with a pat and say thank you for giving part of your life to me. The old man may only be a tree to some, but even in his broken glory, I know he remembered me today.
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