Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Monday, June 30, 2008

Good Deeds and Willow Trees

How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a weary world.
-William Shakespeare

I had a tree once, a willow tree- or at least the fragile beginnings of one. I dug a place for it in the earth during the last minutes of the twentieth century's daylight. As I toiled, as I beat my foot down on the shovel in the snap of a bitter afternoon, I wished for a lasting, ever-thriving bridge between one era and the next- a memory of one, a hope for the other.
It was to be my good deed for the close of day- I was nineteen and eager to make my mark- and by the time the roots were tucked underneath the soil, I had come to refer to my tree as Mr. Willow.
Planting trees is always a splendid idea, and I was possessed with the innocent notion that my willow would inspire me to better myself and the world in the years ahead.
I tended to him for several months; growth was bitterly slow. Still I, the proud gardener, could not help but admire Mr. Willow for his symbolic status.
Alas: even symbols can founder.
My tree could not withstand the persuasive wind that lifted him one night from the only plot he had known, and carried him away.
I was desperately glum afterward, staring at the gaping wound in the garden, that perfectly-timed moment of plantation lost to me forever.
I felt rather like the child in the Raymond Briggs' story 'The Snowman' in which a lonesome boy built a companion out of snow only to lose him too soon in the cruel sun.
I discovered, instead of a puddle, a hollow where Mr. Willow had stood before he was plucked up and away.
I like to suppose that Mr. Willow was able to absorb my attempts at youthful, noble thoughts, that he is to this very day blowing about the world with an occasional courteous nod to the living beings below.
Perhaps the leaves of Mr. Willow, wherever he may be, are still infused with sunlight from two centuries- light that I struggled to capture.
It would be too sad a thing to believe that good intentions can simply fade into oblivion without a trace.


tangobaby said...

I am picturing Mr. Willow flying above us, an elegant green tree angel.

I, too, have become very attached to green friends. Trees and plants and flowers can become the nicest kind of companions and we may not realize how much they are until they are gone.

You could someday plant another Mr. Willow in honor of his predecessor and then feel reminded of how graceful and pretty all willow trees are. (I am an aspen girl myself.)


paulmerrill said...

Beautiful writing.

Kay said...

You are really a wonderful, warm writer with a beautiful personal voice. Thank you for visiting my blog. I'm so happy you did because it led me to discover yours. I know exactly what you mean about getting rid of baggage. We just did a lot of that in our move from Illinois to Hawaii. It took us almost a year to get rid of our teasured junk but I feel lighter for it.

Pappy said...

"Good Deeds and Willow Trees" is one of those snappy phrases you can't get out of your head - like, "Movie Stars and Cocktail Bars". Another pithy story from Ele's pen. Your phrase/title is much richer in the quality things of life than the latter. Keep it up. Pappy

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Tangobaby, that's the image I was going for. Thanks for seeing it!
Spouse says my next tree, when I go to Ireland again, should be called Mr. Willow Junior. I heartily agree.

I love Bob Ross paintings because he does a lot of aspens and it makes me think of California.

Paul, thanks so much. I appreciate that.

Kay, moving seems to be beneficial in helping to clear out a lot of excess, but then again it seems too easy to say "we'll deal with it when we get there" and of course we never do. That will never happen to us again. We've tried really hard this time and every trip to the dumpster, or selling or giving away something, feels like a success. Thanks for your visit.

Texican, it is quite catchy- more like a title for a short story than a brief blogpost, perhaps. I'll be humming it all day now, and it doesn't even have a tune. how is that possible?

polona said...

i love the title, too, and the story doesn't disappoint... there's beautiful ethereal feel to it...

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Polona, it's a bit whimsical I know, but he must be out there somewhere!
Thanks for your kind words.

hele said...

What a beautiful image. Mr Willow and his light infused leaves flying across the world.

He is now part of my internal landscape.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Hele, I am glad to hear that- so he is still around, at least in memory ;)

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