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I touched the cottonwood tree by the small, scraggly garden that occasionally spit up
squat carrots and miserable looking radishes before I boarded the bus with my Canon Standard
Model 35mm to head to the test site. I had carved the word UNIVERSE onto its trunk when I
arrived in Los Alamos because at night, from our bedroom window, the huge tree would merge
seamlessly into the dark and would cause my whimsical mind to imagine plunging into the belly
of violent light that was the night sky.
"The universe in a tree?" mused my husband. He would exhale and rub his pointed chin
with a faraway look. "Definitely. Definitely. A universe in a speck of dust as well."
It had become habit to touch the cottonwood when I left the house. I tended to be
superstitious much to the enormous dislike of my husband.
"To the universe," I exclaimed as the pads of my fingers traced the 'U', for the sky might
catch fire and explode the earth on this very night. "Please God take care of us," I said in a small
internal voice while I adjusted my camera bag. My husband, Johan, was amazingly perceptive
and sometimes picked off my thoughts as cleanly as a dog ripping meat from a steak bone. He
did not like the mention of a benevolent God that gazed upon us as concernedly as Santa Claus.
God to him was an ambivalent math equation designed to urge us into higher and higher levels of
"Maggie, come dear. Let's go." Johan was wearing a leather jacket with a customary,
slender tie in a shade of blue and tugging on his left arm was a small knapsack with a change of
clothes, toiletries, a pack of cards and a silver picture frame that displayed a photo of his parents
and brother standing in front of a pine tree in the Black Forest. Johan was always prepared. In the