Sunday, May 24, 2009

Way of the Willow

This post was inspired by my recent thoughts about trees. There's a saying in my family which I doubt that anyone outside the family knows about.

Every now and then, you'll hear someone in the family say, "It's went the way of the willow" or in vernacular, "It's went the way of the willer". Now most of you have some clue to what that means, but not where it comes from. I'm sure you've caught on to the meaning, that whatever it was is not around anymore - it's gone the way of the willer.

Well, here's the story: When I was about 11 or 12 years old, my family was living in Monkeytown, right up that holler road that's pictured on the sidebar here. Our house was on the same side of the crick as Granny's, where she lived with her youngest son - our great-uncle Dagwood. Between our two houses stood a giant old weeping willow tree, that was planted next to the old spring. The spring had by this time gone out of use, but the water from it still seeped up out of the ground all the time and the willow tree of course loved it. It was a huge old tree - not as big as the white oak in my picture, but it was at least forty feet tall, with weeping branches that dragged the ground in the summer. It was one of the most beautiful trees I'd ever seen - and weeping willows are one of my favorite trees.

Well, anyway, one summer I remember reading in my bedroom during an evening rainstorm. For a while we were on the porches talking and watching it rain, but the thunder and lightning kicked in and we ran inside. I remember Granny had been sitting on her porch too - the yard between our houses was only about a hundred feet or so, with the willow in the middle over the old spring.

Well as I was reading, there was a huge crash, the power went out, and everyone was yelling and running - the old willow had fallen.

A gust of wind had caught it's upper branches, and the soggy ground had given way. It fell straight down between the houses, missing them both. Of course it clipped the power lines in half, and it took a while before power came back to the holler.

It didn't matter really, because we were all mourning the loss of the willow. It was like losing a family member - someone who had always been there, standing guard over us all.

A surprise was beneath the willow, however. When it fell, the tree revealed a giant stone - so large that Granny said it was the base of the mountain and could never be moved. That proved true a few years later when we flattened out part of the yard with a bulldozer - and two dozers, one on each side of the rock, couldn't get it to budge. So my mother named the rock "Old Abe" after Abe Lincoln - since it was so steady and hardheaded.

So the willow is gone now, but Abe is still there, holding up the mountain. Years later, my family replanted a weeping willow in the same place as the other one. It was done not only to replace the missing tree, but to deal with some rather unruly "neighbors". That's another story altogether. Here is the replacement tree, and Old Abe. There's a rail fence there now, too.

Now you'll know, if you hear one of my family say "It's gone the way of the willer", the story behind it. Of course, like all sayings there are now other versions. "It's gone the way of the wizard" - as in the Wizard of Oz, and "the way of the weasel", which is my brother's favorite. His hobbies include studying ferrets and weasels - the mustelid family.

4 comments:

Lizzy said...

I enjoyed reading that! Interesting.

Lanny said...

Family sayings are so wonderful, I wonder how many things in my life that I say or think had their beginnings with a great-grandparent.

Granny Sue said...

I can imagine how you mourned that tree, Jason. The trees around our houses are like family members.

I heard a song just this week from England about the Savior and the willow tree. In the song he's pretty naughty and his mother,"Mary Margaret" switched him with willow switches. So he said that the willow would be the first tree to die in the heart. It's called The Bitter Withy and you can find the lyrics here:
http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/bitter_withy.htm

Neat serendipity that you should write about willows while this song has been on my mind!

Jason Burns said...

Neat that we were both thinking along "willer" lines. I guess it's all the water and rain lately.

Neat ballad, too. I like songs like that, as you know all too well, since I've sat in on your balladeerin' more than a handful o' times.