Ever since I can remember, I have loved trees . . . I loved the sounds and beauty and peaceful feelings they bring. The delicate branches swaying in the breeze are soft and soothing to my senses, or sometimes, during a storm, wild and untamed . . . sending small tufts of cotton sailing though the air. I love to listen to the leaves whenever the wind blows. It is as if they are speaking a language that I yearn to understand. Yet only the trees know the words, and beg for understanding. Some trees give off more oxygen than others, while still others provide colors that seep into our souls with such profound beauty that words cannot express. I have always felt comforted, surrounded by nature and trees. My favorite tree is the cottonwood . . . tall, and majestic and puzzling. Sacred to many tribes, this cosmic tree is seen throughout my book. The Lakota used this tree in their sun dance ceremony . . . a time for renewal. They call it the ‘talking tree’. From its branches and leaves, the Lakota create prayer sticks and drums. When the branches are snapped correctly, and at the precise time, a star appears in the center. The cottonwood is the tree of telling your truth and walking your talk and the sound of its leaves, is said to symbolize the doorway through which the ancient ones appear. This newfound knowledge makes me want to find a cottonwood, sit beneath its welcoming canopy, and listen for its profound wisdom.