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Now I know why deer freeze in headlights.

My mind was literally yelling “RUN!!!” as the deafening crack began to register in my mind’s eye. The massive tree in our backyard was falling.

I was facing the sound, but the blue corner of my studio was all I could see. My imagination crumbled the sheetrock as jagged branches ripped through the wall, coming right for me!

And then… there was silence. The corner of the room was intact. It was over.

But what did it hit?

I raced to the closest window and gawked out. A good 1/4 of the tree was now resting on my neighbor’s back porch. The trunk of the enormous maple split down the middle to the ground.

No one was hurt, there was minimal damage, but our poor, old tree wasn’t going to make it.

For the next month or so it was like I’d found out a friend had gotten terminally ill. The day I found out she was about 80 years old, I also found out she wasn’t going to make it another year.

I named her Ethel. I regretted not naming her sooner; the kind of shame you feel when you only acknowledge love as a direct response to its imminent loss.

I wondered what life would be like without Ethel.

Nine months earlier, when the cottonwood trees were sending their fluffy seeds into the air, my backyard became a magical grove. As the sun neared its exit on the horizon and the wind blew, Ethel’s leaves rustled, sending the dappled sunlight into a quivery, twinkling dance.

The floating fluff balls would hover, glide, and bob in slow motion. When the haphazard light caught them in its beam, they’d glow like fireflies.

The giant maple leaves were bigger than my head. Their rustling a comforting white noise that drowned out the nearby traffic and lawn mowers ever present on any summer day.

Now, it’s not quite as magical back there. Our backyard is bare and empty. I miss Ethel deeply.

I miss her shade. I miss her spiders (however much they freaked me out). I miss cover from the rain. I miss how she channeled the wind’s whispers; there’s no natural sound I love hearing more.

Nick suggested we ground her down into the earth, and plant a new tree, but I couldn’t let them totally bury her. Ethel’s stump remains, like a gravestone, protecting her memory.

Of course, now I’m wondering if maybe it would’ve been easier to try and forget.

P.S. – This story really did happen… a windy snowstorm took her out. It was the worst snowday ever.

I guess this one was a bit of a stretch from the photo. I saw lightning, that made me think of storms, and I miss Ethel so much!!! Sometimes it’s fun to see how far my stream of consciousness can go before I find the right story.

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