A few years ago, a lovely willow in our back yard uprooted and crashed to the ground during a storm that swept through, riding on extremely high winds. Phillip and I happened to be in the living room facing the tall windows overlooking the yard when an earsplitting crack suddenly exploded through the wailing winds of the storm. We instinctively ducked, then turned towards the direction of the sound and saw the tree falling, crashing across two gardens. Bushes, perennials and annuals were crushed beneath the huge trunk, and the willow’s shattered branches lay in pieces, everywhere.
We spent the next week cleaning up and cutting the trunk of the tree so we could remove it from the gardens in sections. Huge “willow boulders” still form a pile of firewood near the river. We can only use such large pieces in outdoor bonfires, as they’re too hard to cut for the indoor wood-burning stove. Thankfully, all of the plants were saved, as though the willow had tried to do the least amount of damage as possible as it fell to its own death, missing far more plants than it touched, and those that were crushed now look healthy and revived.
We left the base of the willow’s trunk and a few massive pieces where it had been rooted, and formed a garden around it…at first, haphazardly, since it hadn’t been a planned garden, initially. Phillip built a trellis and set it at the back of this space, and I set a few plants around, intending to design and shape a garden when we had time. Throughout the next year, we added seeds or plants when we had leftovers from other gardens, driven by necessity and still without a design. The space gradually became attractive, but it made me sad to think about losing the willow.
For some years, I’d collected rose hips from the wild roses along the trail, saved them in the freezer and then, at some point, opened them and scarified a few of the seeds…I couldn’t find a lot of help on the internet in those days, so I had to guess at the techniques that would work: freezing and burning some, slicing others with a razor: scarification is challenging for the seed and the gardener… I planted these seeds around the yard and forgot about them for a couple years. Surprisingly, a few wild roses started popping up here and there, and within two years of the “falling willow,” a huge white wild rose was embracing, then overtaking the trellis, and forming an elegant backdrop for willow’s garden. Poppies thrived there and so did irises, lilies, and flax.
It has become a very lovely sanctuary in that corner of the yard, a memorial to our beautiful willow and her gentle spirit. The wild rose has become a symbol of what the pain of scarification can lead to: vigorous new growth and a surprising beauty that was unforeseen.
A few nights ago, we burned pieces of the willow’s trunk in our bonfire, and the holy fragrance entered my dreams as the fire smoldered through the night. It said: See what beauty can come from loss, and how spirited is the growth born from pain!
And all my dreams were stories of hope.