Weeping a bit for my willow

My husband and I live in a house that was originally built by my husband’s parents. The house is small, but the yard is big. My husband’s dad didn’t like mowing around trees and shrubbery, so originally in the one-plus-acre yard, there were two trees — one in the front and one off to the side of the front. It is my belief that those trees were here before the house was built, and that is why they remained.

Anyway, we have planted both trees and bushes through the years. Some have lived; some have been moved or been taken out; and some have just not flourished.

Fifteen or so years ago we planted a Navajo willow tree in the back of our house. Most of you are familiar with what is termed to be a “weeping willow” tree — you know the ones that the branches hang basically to the ground, and they look like they are drooping and weeping.

Our Navajo willow is not like that. It is an upright tree with many branches and thousands of small leaves. The tree grew very rapidly and now has a huge main trunk; it is probably 30 feet tall, and without trimming, it would be 30-plus feet from side to side. Some have said to us that the tree, in pictures, looks sort of tropical. I don’t know about that, but it does provide us with some wonderful shade in our backyard and on our decks during the summer months.

The tree, as it grows in the summer, provides a canopy over our sidewalk. It provides the support for two swings that our grandsons love. The leaves and branches are so thick that you can sit under it in the rain and never get wet. The tree always makes me think of the Joyce Kilmer poem titled, “Trees.” In that poem Kilmer says, “A tree that may in Summer wear; A nest of robins in her hair; Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain; Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.” The Navajo has become an integral part of our backyard.

The Navajo does have one similarity to most willow trees. Its branches break off easily. This winter has been especially difficult for the tree.

The heavy winds at the beginning of January and several times since then have caused the tree to lose many branches. The branches are strewn in our yard, sticking up through the snow and laying there as a sad reminder of the harsh, strong winds of this winter. Each time the wind blows, I wonder how many more branches the tree will lose, and if there a limit to the number it can lose and survive.

As I walk under the tree on the way to our garage, I hear the branches creaking, and it is as if they are calling to me, saying “When will the wind stop hurting me and when will the warm breezes of spring blow?” I smile and say to the tree and to myself, “I am asking the same question. Hang in there — spring always comes.”

Yes, spring does always come (and it cannot be soon enough), and then my big beautiful tree will, I hope, start its new cycle of life. The branches will turn green and tiny leaves will begin forming. I think I will be watching this cycle closely this year. I want to be sure the cycle does start — that the harsh winter winds have not done more damage than just take down some branches.

So, I say to you winter, please don’t hurt my tree any more. Please remember this tree and all the other trees are important to us. I love my big Navajo, and I will be waiting anxiously for it to turn green this spring for the promise of its shade and gentle rustle to welcome me again. See you in the spring, my big friend.

Nita Wyatt of Wyanet can be reached at golfingfor2@ymail.com.