Wednesday, January 08, 2003

There are three trees along the Interstate highway, eastbound I-80, at mile marker 419. They stand in a row, the farthest-west one the farthest from the shoulder, the middle one a bit closer, and the third one a little closer yet, so it seems as though they are greeting the east-bound traffic.

They are as identical to the eye as makes no difference: height, about 25 feet; the girth of their gray trunks, maybe 30 inches; the generous and symmetrical spreading of their now-naked branches to the sky. Their limbs may even touch one another as though they're holding hands. I am sure that when they're leafed out, their green fingers patter together in the breeze.

I call them the Three Sisters, and I try to watch for them every day, and when I pass I sometimes nod, or salute, and often say out loud, "Hello, ladies." I imagine that they can feel my love and admiration as I whiz past at 65 or 75 mph.

I want to start photographing them, and I will, over the course of the next year, to capture their elegant serenity through the seasons. I want to capture their beneficient grace on film, because I know that they are doomed.

In the next ten years, the Department of Roads is going to add another lane to the outsides of both directions of traffic between Omaha and Lincoln, and the Three Sisters are within the Right-of-Way of the new lane. Unless the DOR can be persuaded to move them--a costly procedure--they will fall beneath the tractor's scoop, be piled with dozens of their neighbors, and then either burned or carted off to a wood-chipper to make mulch for people's landscaping and park trails.

This breaks my heart, and I will write to DOR, and call my friends there, and do anything else I can to save them--but I fear it will all be for naught. It doesn't pay to fall in love with any roadside feature in Nebraska. Too often they're already slated for destruction even before you've discovered them.

So I want a little album of the Three Sisters. If I can, I might just stop one day this spring, and collect a leaf from each of them. Maybe I could make a collage with their leaves, and photographs.

They're beautiful, and beneficial, and benign, and they should not be forgotten.

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