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Strong Winds Bring Change

It’s been a year for the winds of changes to blow hard and long. On every level, the winds are blowing, and I keep trying to trim my sails accordingly. Some days, I don’t feel like a particularly skilled sailor, and yet on other days, my metaphorical sails fill with a snap, and I revel in the exhilirating sensations of soaring along propelled by forces outside myself.

A few weeks ago, some straight line winds brought some big physical changes to the farm. When we moved in more than 12 year ago, there was a small willow near an old garage. We were quick to admire the nearly 100 year old maples that shaded the farmhouse, but with some carelessness, thought that perhaps that small oddly placed willow should be removed. For that willow, our ongoing overload of demands and basic tendencies to procrastinate plus our dislike of killing things purely for the “look” of the yard or farm — well, they all added up to more than a decade in which that little willow became a lovely, grand tree.

This summer, that willow provided both play and shade for the litter of Spider puppies. Hanging from its limbs were various sights and sounds, and even a few tug toys that the puppies enjoyed. More hours than I can count were spent under its limbs, puppies all around me, the cool leafy shelter above us most welcome. In those hours, brought to a fuller awareness of life with fresh eyes – a gift that puppies always bring – I looked with surprise at the new found grandness of what we still referred to as the “little willow.”

No longer little, this was now a splendid willow. I was deeply grateful to this tree for the gentle reminder that time changes everything, and sometimes in the most unexpected and lovely ways. Both John and I found ourselves talking with the tree, admiring it, and speaking with each other about the willow.

On July 15, when those straight line winds hit the farm, half of an elderly maple was ripped away. A beautiful poplar snapped in half. A hickory among the hemlocks uprooted, held upright now only by its evergreen companions. Other trees destroyed or broken badly. But the one tree that made me cry was the willow. It uprooted gracefully. It did not snap or break, but bent away from the earth, towards the house. And yet there was no damage done, just the willow branches resting lightly on the roof and walls.

Just after it all went bad and the power pole and transformed exploded and the wires lay on the lawn, with power gone and pounding rain and dangerous lightning all around, just after that, I walked into the kitchen. I was dazed by the sight of the willow now covering the entire front door, and could not make sense of the odd light in the kitchen. I panicked for a moment, thinking that the weird bluish light was some kind of gas or smoke or fog, but there was no odor, no heat. And then it hit me: I was seeing things in a literally new light, the light that the willow had absorbed all those years, helping to keep our kitchen cool in the summer. Here came the light unimpeded.

The main carcass remains for now on the lawn, a task for a chainsaw and some strong arms. We’ve saved some cuttings so that we can start again with some “little willows.” This time, I promise not to take them for granted. And I am grateful that with the new eyes granted me by the puppies, I was able to really see the big willow in its beauty before the shocking end. I will be looking for what the new light helps me see, even as I mourn the loss necessary for the light to pour through in new ways.

Life is short. Talk to your favorite trees today. And then go hug some people & animals too…

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“Strong Winds Bring Change” by Suzanne Clothier