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.”

Beauty & the Beast – Spring Snow

Magnolia tree bearing the weight of snow.

Magnolia tree bearing the weight of snow.

My predawn walk to the mailbox this morning was marked by the beauty of trees coated with snow. That kind of wet snow that clings to every branch creating the effect of a winter wonderland. The kind of winter scene we enjoy so much in December.

However, it is May. Magnolia trees are in full bloom. Our maple and ash trees sprout seeds and leaves. The grass is green and growing with enough vigor that we’ve already mowed and begun collecting grass clippings for mulch on the garden.

During my walk to the mailbox, I considered how pretty this record snowfall was in spite of its untimely arrival and planned to bring my camera out to capture this winter/spring visual delight when the sun was up.

How much can an old willow tree take?

How much can an old willow tree take?

Later, as I trudged through the snow, I faced the beauty and beast nature of this snowstorm. Snow against the raspberry sherbet redbud blossoms, the luxurious pink magnolia blooms, and the spring green tree leaves was striking in its beauty. However, already laden with heavy blossoms, the limbs of the magnolia tree drooped to the ground under the added weight. Some had cracked. Our old willow tree, already damaged by a heavy winter storm lost so many branches it’s hard to tell where the tree ends and the ground begins. Around me, the sound of tree limbs snapping punctuated the air. A beast tore through our landscape.

Unexpected green in a black and white landscape.

Unexpected green in a black and white landscape.

As I sit looking out my window, I mourn once-beautiful trees that appear to have had a bomb set off in the middle, I wonder if they’ll survive such an assault. I cannot help but think of the Boston Marathon. There, too, unexpected violence ripped apart a beautiful spring scene.

I take hope in that nature has a remarkable way of healing. Some of our trees may not survive. But I expect most of them will. The scars will be visible for years, perhaps forever, but the trees survive. In the Boston bombings, three people did not survive the assault. But most will. They’ll have scars, but most will survive. Nature and human nature. We survive.