Weeping for a Willow


In the last thirty years the landscape of our family property has undergone a number of changes.  Hills have been levelled, a pond dug out.  A new home sits squarely in the middle of the land now.  Yet one constant amidst all this change was the big Willow tree in the far back of the property.  Silently it watched our family grow up.  It sustained poorly made forts and death defying rope swings.   I use the past tense because last night a majority of the old willow came crashing to the ground.  Thinking on this tree, I was reminded of Howard Nemerov’s poem “Trees”


To be a giant and keep quiet about it,

To stay in one’s own place;

To stand for the constant presence of process

And always to seem the same;

To be steady as a rock and always trembling,

Having the hard appearance of death

With the soft, fluent nature of growth,

One’s Being deceptively armored,

One’s Becoming deceptively vulnerable,

To be so tough, and take the light so well,

Freely providing forbidden knowledge

Of so many things about heaven and earth

For which we should otherwise have no word—

Poems or people are rarely so lovely,

And even when they have great qualities

They tend to tell you rather then exemplify

What they believe themselves to be about,

While from the moving silence of trees,

Whether in storm or calm, in leaf and naked,

Night or day, we draw conclusions of our own,

Sustaining and unnoticed as our breath,

And perilous also—though there has never been

A critical tree—about the nature of things.


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