They always grow next to water.
That’s what initially attracted me to the willows. I grew up with a lake only a short walking distance away, and a river in my backyard. My parents used to own a pontoon boat that we would go out on all summer. I was small then, around six, when we first got it. I have many a fond memory of that boat. There were also a lot of Jet Ski adventures—and incidents—as well.
Water is happiness to me, childhood, a picture of a full family on the pontoon. My younger sister asleep on the shaded back couch, Dad driving with his sunglasses on, Mom with her flimsy visor with the dolphins jumping across it, my older sister insisting that we stop to go swimming. All of these memories are conjured by the sound of the rocks licking the water further downstream.
Shelter was the next thing. The willows with hair so long they dirty it playing with the wind in the dust at their feet. I love to slip behind that gentle curtain and merge with the bark, run my hands through a different kind of river.
The willows with short hair are forever stretching to reach the water, to touch the smooth surface that’s always just out of reach. I like to think they’ll make it someday, if only because I’ve seen willows with their hair dunked heartily in the water, bathing or drinking, I can never decide which. Maybe it’s both. All I know is they look happy.
Which brings me to my last point. Willows have a dreary connotation to them. They’re almost the gothic/alternative children of the tree family, with their heads bowed, moping around. I like to think of it as purposeful diligence, always striving to grow that hair long enough to reach the river, to return to childhood, to happiness. Isn’t that what we’re all doing? Searching for that time in our lives when the direction was clear, when the water only flowed one way—toward home?