When my husband I moved to our acreage 10 years ago, I loved all the trees, but particularly the big old willow. I frequently carried a chair and a book to the tree where I’d spend hours watching the graceful fronds sway in the breeze rather than reading, romantic notions of summer picnics and moonlit trysts playing through my mind.
The willow was a landmark for people looking for our driveway. It marked the seasons with golden pollen in the spring and gold leaves in the fall, all the while offering inspiration: for a poem I wrote a friend struggling after a divorce; for our grandchildren who ran through the fronds that skimmed the ground, for photographs that hang on my walls.
The willow stood watch over the prairie patch I planted, a backdrop instead of the focus for my many photos of prairie flowers. It was a perch for owls and hawks that took to the highest limbs as they kept an eye out for their next meal.
As the years passed, the winds of time took their toll. Dry rot claimed the center of the trunk, and limbs fell with increasing frequency. We knew the tree would have to come down. Even though we’ve lived with this tree for such a short time, when the chainsaws arrived, I felt as though I was losing an old friend.
The man who led the team was respectful of this gracious old lady. “She was older than any of us,” he said when we asked. “It was time.” I have yet to count all the rings on the stump, but there are easily 70.
The landscape is different when I look out my office window now. The willow occupied so much space and now it’s gone. I echo Bob Hope when I think of the willow: “Thanks for the memories.”