I drive Coyote Trail at least four times a day, unless I take the other way.
It's a beautiful ribbon through west Tulsa County, and I always feel grateful to be able to drive such a pretty stretch.
The road's smooth now, ever since the county put down new asphalt.
Though they did change the name down at the bottom of the hill.
I'm not sure why, but now the sign calls it 157th Street.
That doesn't have much charm.
And up at the top of the hill, they changed the name to 51st street, and I'm not sure why that is, either.
Doesn't make much sense.
Everyone out here still calls it Coyote Trail.
Unless they call it Ky-oat Trail.
That's OK, too.
Because sometimes you can spot a coyote crossing the road.
And at night, you can hear them calling.
Which is why I refuse to call Coyote Trail anything but.
It's always startling, at first, to see it.
But when I round the gentle curve, I'm reminded that it's Christmas-time again.
Usually, the silver garland is reflecting the sunlight.
Blowing in the wind.
And that's how I notice the perfect little cedar wrapped for another season in its holiday finery.
Sitting as it does, surrounded by the dried reminders of summer-just-past, the butterscotch bluestem and the black-eyed susans, hunkered down in the sandstone drainage, I imagine lots of folks whizzing past never notice.
Unless they sun's just right, and bounces off the garland.
Then I wonder how they could miss it.
And who is it that wants us to take notice, and why?
Who stopped along The Trail, where there is no convenient place to stop, and picked this tree?
There are lots of cedars out here to choose from.
Mis-shapen ones and perfectly pointy triangular Christmas tree ones.
Last year, it was just this one that was decorated, half-a-mile away at the bottom of the hill.
Ranchers, I hear, don't like cedars.
But the birds, do, because they can find shelter in them, and berries to eat.
And so I appreciate cedar trees.
I wonder how this one feels to be picked out of all the rest.
Embarrassed by all the fuss?
Proud that for a few weeks, it brings a flash of color to a country road?
And I can't help but wonder if it marks a melancholy way to remember a tragedy.
Is it a family's longing to bring the joy of the season to a place where a dear one lost their life?
Took their last breath?
In thirteen years of living out here, and driving The Trail, I can't recall an accident at this spot.
And once I turn off Coyote and continue on downtown, I pass other roadside shrines to grief and longing, accidents I do remember.
They change with the seasons.
Carefully tended with new arrangements and wreaths and messages.
But not the little cedar.
It's only in December that someone carefully, quietly, drapes it and leaves no clue behind.
I never see them hang the red balls.
And I never see them take them down.
Just notice one day the little tree is back to being a cedar, like all the others.
But this month, when we mark a baby's birth all those years ago by crushing each other in a frenzy for a sweatshirt, add another gadget to our stash of gadgets, spend too much and eat too much and rush here-and-there trying to accomplish and measure-up to the impossible, I'm always grateful I get to turn up the hill on my way home to the country.
And know that it's Christmas time again on Coyote Trail.