I have loved willow trees for as long as I can remember. At my Grandmother’s home there was one at the edge of her property. My brother and I would play in its shade. Lost in our own kingdom of branches for afternoons at a time, swinging on the strongest branches. Racing down the hill to the willow tree is one of the memories that I continue to hold on to as I get older and others slip away.
One day however the tree was cut down and I felt like a chunck of my childhood was sawed away with it. A tree that had been a fixture in the landscape for years and in most of my memories of that house was gone in a day. I told my husband about how much that tree had meant to me and that willows were my favorite tree. He bought us our own willow tree shortly after that.
We planted our tiny will in the fall of 2013, and that winter was the coldest I can remember. School was closed for 21 days in a row, and with temperatures remaining below zero for most of it. I watched my little tree out our front window as icicles formed in grew from the eaves. The cold caused branches large and small to drop from established oak and maple trees surrounding our property. As the temperatures dropped and winds rose, the heavy frost laden branches continued to fall. I worried our willow would not survive.
But spring came, as it always does, after even the harshest winters. As color began to burst back into our chilled neighborhood, I watched for signs of life from our tree. Slowly but surely, our tiny willow joined the spring in vibrant green.
As years have gone by, I’ve seen strong tall trees fall all around us. When the storms come and the winds blow, the branches and trees crack and come crashing down, dying and falling. But our willow now taller than our house comes to life! Swaying in time with the howling winds even in the worst storms.
For most of my life, when the storms and the howling winds of hard things and trials have surrounded me, I have faced them like the strong hardwood trees. I would stand tall and solitary, trying to fight and stand firm. Eventually, like those trees, I would break. Looking at my willow as the wind swirls around it, I know that sometimes you have to dance in the rain and let the wind carry you a little. Bending and swaying just enough to weather the storm.
There is no winter that doesn’t carry with it the promise of spring. Every storm ends, even if it doesn’t culminate in a rainbow. Be like the willow and dance in the chaos, because when the winds die down and the storms recede, you will be left standing.