Saying Good-bye to an Old Friend

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.Willow tree - prairie planting

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.Willow tree - winter

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.Willow tree - Blue Vervain

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.Willow tree - removal

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.Willow tree - removal

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.”

Comments

  1. I’m sorry you lost your willow, Carol. They’re beautiful trees. As I child I loved to hide under their branches.

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      A willow’s swaying branches call to children and adults, Mary. How lucky for you to have one as a child. Since I’d never lived with a willow before, but read about them often in stories, I was swept away with the romance.

  2. She was a beauty–I’m sorry you lost her. I’ve always wanted one. They’re the essence of romance

  3. What a lovely poignant post. I know how it is to love and lose a tree. Unfortunately with the drought it’s happening here. The group of birch trees outside our bedroom window is dying and it’s breaking my heart. And others are suffering. We’re on strict water restriction and doing all we can to save what we can. What would we do without trees – they give us life: oxygen.

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      I feel for all of you in California and the entire drought region. It must be painful to see the trees die and be able to do nothing about it. Would that we could give you some of our rain. We’ve had more than plenty this year. Wishing you and your trees moisture in time, Paulette.

  4. Elfrieda Schroeder says:

    I resonate with what you wrote, Carol. Two summers ago we lost a birch that was in a corner of our yard. We moved here seven years ago, and really loved that tree. We wondered what we could have done to save it. It almost felt like the death of a friend.

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      The parallels between losing human friends and losing a tree are many. I lost two friends recently and writing about the tree felt like writing about them. One of the parallels is that often we can’t save them. It just may be their time – as it was for our willow. As it may have been for your birch.

  5. Carol, I feel your pain. We live in a forest and we’ve lost several heritage oaks and a few magnificent wild cherry trees. I grieve for each, whether Mother Nature calls them home or we hasten the process.

    Cherish those memories!

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      Sharon, I appreciate your comment that sometimes we ‘hasten the process,’ which doesn’t make it necessarily less difficult. “You don’t grow a tree like that overnight,” as my husband says, even of the ones we elect not to keep for one reason or another.

  6. Losing a tree is very painful. It’s one thing to have to take a tree down because it is dying and may cause damage when it falls, but it’s even worse when to see trees stripped from the land for new homes or shopping centers.

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      Agreed, Joan. There is so much research to support having trees around a house that it’s surprising and disappointing to see builders go for the convenience of a clear-cut lot over preserving mature trees.

  7. Mary Gottschalk says:

    I’ll miss it too … it’s been a landscape marker whenever I come to your house …. hope I don’t go roaring past on my next trip

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      The willow was a landscape marker for many. The only one on this street. Now I tell people to look for the prairie, though depending on the season, that may not be as readily visible. Call if you get lost, Mary; I’ll talk you in.

  8. Bonnie L. Browne says:

    We have a weeping willow at the end of our driveway. We planted it there a few years after we built the house (1973). You have to drive under it to get to the house. In the summer of 2014, it was struck by lightning 3 times one night. Pieces of the tree were blown many yards away out on the highway that runs in front of our house. It didn’t kill it. It looks pretty sick right now, but we just can’t bring ourselves to cut it yet. Will see how it looks after the winter. Makes me sad to think of it not being there.

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      I’m sorry for the damage your willow sustained, Bonnie. What a shock to be hit three times in one storm. Trees can be remarkably resilient. I hope yours survives and thrives again.

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