Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What I Took for Granted

            For twelve years, I have enjoyed another person’s dream and labor, taking it for granted day after day and year after year.  In 1961, this man and his wife built a house, no—a home, overlooking Big Creek in far eastern Trego County.  Landscape influenced every decision that young family made as they positioned their home to welcome sunrise and enjoy sunset as well as view Big Creek and its abundant wildlife and trees. 

            From the first time I saw this then vacant house, I knew I wanted to call it home and savor its landscape.  I loved the well-planned southern shelter belt, the privacy surrounding cedars provided, as well as cottonwoods, locust, and ash trees winding along the nearby creek east and west of the house.

            Over the years, I learned where hawks, herons, mockingbirds, cardinals, wrens, and dove nested and looked forward each year to watching new families hatch and fledge.  I knew the pine where owls sometimes whispered love songs to one another.  I knew the cedar where squirrels ran to hide after they had ambushed our dogs. 

Each exit from and return to the drive at the top of the hill meant a three mile view of the creek west and east.  That winding belt of trees changed predictably with the seasons so we had pale then dark green belts that altered to yellow then orange and finally stark branches in winter. 

Like many folks, I take what I have for granted, and I assumed this beloved landscape would welcome me all the years I live here.  All that changed May 23 when a series of tornadoes not only destroyed many farmsteads in our neighborhood, but also the landscape that residents expected to see each morning. 

            So far, we have counted thirty-four uprooted trees the family who dreamed and built our farmstead planted by hand and cared for so they grew to protect this place.  The protection worked because the trees took the brunt of the storm and left our home dented but standing solidly in place.

            Mature trees along the creek a mile to the west and a mile to the east also fared poorly.  They now look like a snaggle-toothed hockey player smiling broadly.  Huge cottonwoods standing sentinel along the creek for decades snapped and shattered, leaving splintered arms and roots in grotesque supplication to the sky that first nurtured them, then splintered them.

            Sounds of humans cleaning up farmyards and fields pulse through the air as tractors, trucks, and saws clean up damage to buildings and shelter belts.  Soon the reverberation of building and repairing houses, barns, and outbuildings will replace the noise of tearing down and hauling away ripped and torn metal and wood.  

            The hawk nest and heron nests are gone as is the cedar that sheltered warring squirrels.  A new landscape formed not by a nurturing creek and warm sun, but by Mother Nature at her worst wends its way along the creek.  This landscape will not recover quickly with the artificial sounds of human tools.   Its silent replacement will come over decades, perhaps centuries. 

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