Written by Kevin L. Howard   
Look at the hills covered by green blades standing at attention, and slowly swaying like a black church choir robed in green.  The soil is cool, slightly damp.  Ants scoot in and out dodging the blades.  They hunt, they march, they attack their prey, and together they hoist it back, even if it’s 100 times bigger than they are individually.

The sun sinks, hanging just five inches above the horizon.  The wind is occasional and calm, almost unnoticeable.  The sky holds a blue banner with a few clouds on the outskirts.  The birds chatter out of sync.  A grasshopper engages his wings, hops, and buzzes three feet to your left.


You’re in a field, with a hill in front of you, and a marshy area of trees to your left.  Behind you is a field, no trees close by.  Just a tree line running along the creek two hundred yards back.


Up on the left, set apart from the marsh, is a pine tree by itself.  The tree was there forever, as far as you know; it was tall when you were just five years old.  The tree stands with its chin held high, for he knows more than you.  He represents life; he’s big and green.  But, every time you look at him, a glimmer of death is in his eyes.  At his feet lies a grave.  Buried underneath his roots is a set of bones, if the ants haven’t toted them off. 


Scrape back the pine needles, and you should find a rock, slightly smaller than a football.  The rock serves as a tombstone.  It draws you back to when you were five and your life was all about a dog, your brother’s dog. 


You and your brother were in the house the night your dad came in: “I want you two on the carport, now.”  You gulped with fear.  Surely he’d found something you broke.  It was whipping time.  Your mom asked, “What did they do?”  It confirmed your fears, showing you to be wise, even at age five, rightly interpreting the inflections in your father’s voice.


You walk outside, prepared to take the belt, but instead find something far worse.  Noopy, laying more still than you’ve ever seen her sleep.  And her tongue is partially out, but not moving back and forth the way it did when she slept.


That tree, what a brave soul to stand there, watching over your dad’s property, and Noopy’s grave for three decades.  The tears flowed down your cheeks so easily the night of Noopy’s death, your first real recollection of loss and sorrow.  How could a happy little dog suddenly make you so sad?  How could she lay there all those years, under her tree?  How could this tree represent life and death, sadness and joy?  It’s just a tree, but how can this tree tell a part of your history?  Bones and wood, fur and bark, needles and dust.  A stone that disappeared years ago.  A sacred place.  A tree.