My Broken Willow

Recently (at least in a tree’s life), I landscaped my backyard and spent quite a bit on excavation, trees, plants, a firepit, boulders, and all that good stuff.  Trees are my favorite.  I wish I had a forest in my backyard, especially because it faces west.  I picked out two willows and put them in the middle of my yard so that they would grow and someday provide shade.  They weren’t puny things; they were about 30-40 feet tall.  Although sparse in the branches and leaves department, my landscaper assured me willows grow fast, and in not too many years they’d be touching, creating a nice canopy of shade.

Well, the first year there wasn’t much growth…but the landscaper had warned me that after being transplanted they would need time to push down their roots.  So I tried to be patient, but every day I’d look out and send my positive vibes toward them—GROWWWWW!

Another year passed.  They started pushing out a few more branches and weren’t quite so pathetic looking.  They were still more tall than bushy, but I kept throwing out my will to them—GROWWWWW!…and knew they would.

One day a windstorm came through.  I wasn’t worried.  It wasn’t the worst windstorm we’d ever had.  We’d had a tornado like storm that had come through right after they were planted and swirled around and shook the foundation of my house all night long and eventually pulled up my favorite Frost Peach tree and threw it across the yard in a tangled mess of sorrow.  But my willows had survived, so I figured they’ survive anything.

I was wrong.

My daughter heard a loud CRACK! and screamed.  I rushed to her room and looked out her window and saw a sight that nearly brought me to tears.  My heart was broken…and so was my tree.

My tall, graceful willow now looked like a stubby dwarf from Lord of the Rings.  The most beautiful part of it that had all the new growth—the main stem going straight up—was snapped in half and hanging pathetically down to the ground.

I went to my room to be alone with my sorrow!  I wanted to weep…and wail…and gnash my teeth.  Stupid wind!

It seemed the end of my poor willow.  I was sure I’d now have an imbalanced yard because we’d have to dig it up and throw it away.  I mourned; I was bitter toward wind in all its forms; I was angry and dejected, and every other negative feeling.  I had put so much positive energy into willing that tree to GROW…and now it was half its size with a jagged scar right on its main trunk.  Ick!

My husband didn’t dig it up and throw it away.  He said, “Ah, it’s still alive.  It will grow back.”

But it was ugly and didn’t match its sister tree.  The other one was 40 feet; the broken one was 20 feet.  It had lost the majority of its branches and looked awful!

My husband’s not a landscaper, so I asked my brother (who used to be a landscaper) what I should do.  He told me that it breaking was probably the best thing that could have happened to my tree.  He encouraged me to trim off about half of the other tree to match the small one so that another wind storm in the future wouldn’t do the same to it.

AGH!  That wasn’t the answer I wanted.  But my brother explained that little trees are able to put more energy into growing a strong root system to support their tops.  Large nursery trees don’t have that stabilizing root system to support such a large top.

It sounded bizarre, and I rebelled against cutting my beautiful tall tree at all.  My landscaper, Andrea, verified what my brother said (I did ask for a 2nd opinion).  She told me to trim off the jagged scar to keep insects from getting into the trunk, and then to watch it grow in the upcoming years.  She told me it’s hard to kill a willow, and to trust that it would get a strong root system and eventually thrive.

So that’s what I’ve been doing.  And I have been surprised.  I was too chicken to lop off my taller tree—so it’s still tall and straggly (I need my brother to come here and take decisive action because I’m too much a wimp when it comes to cutting things).  But right away the broken smaller one began shoving branches out like crazy!  When it didn’t have to feed its great height with its limited root system, it actually began to thrive, whereas before it had just been surviving.  It’s much fuller now than my other one.  W—O—W!

It got me thinking about life.  I’m a willow.  Sometimes I’ve gotten tall and felt myself glorious (vanity…pride…those kind of things that give you a big head when you really don’t need one), although my depth and thickness was a little skimpy—and then WHAMO!  Some terrible windstorm thrashes me back and forth and breaks me in half, leaves me crumbled to my knees wondering if I can go on because of the tragic event which rocked my world.

Like the stunted tree, there are times when we all have to delve deeper and grow our roots.  Tragedy forces us to question our foundational core.  Is it strong enough?  I believe God knows us better than we do ourselves (well, duh!  He’s God).  He knows how deep and strong our roots are, and sometimes knocks us down or lops off pride for our greater good.  He doesn’t just want us to SURVIVE this life—He wants us to THRIVE and have JOY!  He knows that, just like my willow, if he whacks off the fluff, we’ll have to thrust our roots down deeper—to Him—the Giver of all strength and nourishment.  Then when our roots are strong in Him, we will be able to sustain greater growth—greater depth, empathy, satisfaction, and knowledge…greater JOY.  That’s how it seems to me anyway.

I’ll keep you informed on my willow’s progress.


9 thoughts on “My Broken Willow

  1. So very true about life…sometimes we NEED to be knocked down so we will be on our knees! I can’t wait to see your willows someday when you have a nice canopy of shade in your backyard!

  2. I was devastated when that happened… but it makes such a great story and holds so much extra meaning now. I can’t wait to watch is grow now!

  3. Pingback: Pain—God’s Megaphone | Joy in the Moments

  4. Just browsing through some posts Char. The Willow has always been my favorite tree, even as a very small little girl.

    Do you know the Paul McCartney song “Little Willow”? It brought me a lot of comfort after my mom died. I’ll see if I can look it up for you later.

    How are your willows now?

        • You’re welcome Char. I first heard it on a duo-cd tribute album to Princess Diana. There are tons of great songs on that collection.

          You make me want to go plant a willow. Maybe I will!

    • They are beautiful…even the broken one. It has filled in so thick and has healed nicely. They are amazing. Every time I look at them, they inspire me…and help me remember that when hard times come in life that knock me down (which they will), I can survive and become even stronger. I’m going to go listen to your song now. I see its on the next comment.

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