The weeping willow is perhaps one of the loveliest trees of all. It certainly plays an important part of many myths and legends in different cultures, and it has stories linking it with full moons, protection and inspiration. I have always loved willows. One of my fondest memories is of living in Cambridge and walking through the Boston Public Gardens when the willows were out in full. On a hot day, you could sit under one and feel ten degrees cooler. The were also among the earliest trees to leaf in spring.
Old Tombstone with Weeping Willow
In the old, old cemetaries of Boston and Cambridge, willows adorned gravestones and iron work going back to Colonial times.
Lovely Iron Gate with Willow
In the beautiful North Carolina community in which I live there was once a beautiful lotus pond with a magnificent willow overlooking it. One night the tree came crashing down. Later the pond dried up and the lotuses were no more. This poem began quite some time ago, but it, too, lay dormant until I pulled out a forgotten draft of the first three stanzas. Strange how that can be–sometimes returning to a poem that was left unfinished so long ago is suddenly the very thing you need.
Click on the link below if you’d like to listen to me reading this poem. It will take a few seconds before the clip begins so please be patient.
Weeping Willow Tree
They said it was the drought that did it. Too many summers the pond dried up, Even the lotus pods soon went dormant.
Rainstorms came that June: day after Day the rain flooded the nearby creek And filled the small pond you graced.
It was just too much and all too fast. In the night you fell, your shallow roots Rudely ripped out of the raw wet earth.
The old gardener pulls up in his truck, Walks over with chain saw in hand, Ready to dismember branches and trunk.
I ask if I might take a few willow wands. He waits patiently and watches as I Cut three long sticks of fallen green.
I thank him and walk away. He nods, and smiles wryly after me, at the whimsy Of a stranger who was passing by.
The chain saw shrieks as it starts On its ruthless task as I continue By on my walk, recalling a story I love.
Carrying sticks of willow for protection, Orpheus, singer of sweet songs and poems, Wandered in dark and silent Hades.
We know the ending, how Eurydice Was soon lost forever. But the willow gifted Orpheus with music, songs so beautiful
Even the wild and rowdy winds stopped Blowing to listen to his broken heart. With Orpheus’ death, the lyre lay silenced.
Over the chain saw’s tuneless humming, I picture the willow’s nocturnal passing, And I weep for all who are lost too soon.
This poem began in a meadow up in the Scottish Highlands while my husband and I were visiting the ruins of a castle. He went inside to explore further, but I chose to stay behind and linger in the beautiful summer fields. As you have probably experienced yourself, this frequently leads the imagination to so many new places. It also presents an opportunity for a simple sensory awareness meditation. Just standing there looking and listening is a spiritual act in itself.
The challenge for me in this poem was to use a repeating word (“listen”) to create both mood and cadence in the lines. The decision to complete the poem with a repeating line (or couplet) was a very different way to close my own lyrical love song to nature.
[Note: the following two paragraphs were added here several months later when the poem was published by Dagda Publishing Company.]
On 3 March 2015, Dagda Publishing Company, a publisher of poetry and literature based in Nottingham, UK, featured this poem in their blog. It was a real honor to have had my poem chosen by this excellent publisher. This is what they had to say about the poem:
Today’s featured poem, and the first one in March, is this one from Mary Kendall. Inspired by a trip to Scotland, this piece has a naturalistic theme to it, and we feel is just perfect for this time of year, as we start to escape the cold and dark of winter and crawl toward summer and longer days. Musing upon the sounds of nature and imagining a song being sung by the choir of trees, flowers and the meadow itself, this piece has a touch of magical realism to it, of there being something fantastical just behind the ordinary and everyday. A poem full of the wonder of nature and the sense of being away from the familiarity of one’s normal life, we hope you enjoy this poem by Mary Kendall.
An audio clip of me reading this poem is included below. Click on the link below to hear it. It will take a few seconds to begin.
Have you ever been a few thousand miles from somewhere, standing in meadow of sweet grass or barley and thistles, bright pink bells of foxglove swaying in the wind, and then you stop, just standing still and listening; listening to the wind song of the leaves and grasses.
I asked them to tell me the words they sang to those who stopped to listen. They heard me and replied, but I could not understand what it was they said.
I waited and waited until the wind resumed its blowing, the grasses their gentle whispering; the leaves sang loudest of all, and I listened. I listened the while.
I listened until the song ended, and then I went on my way. So far from home. So far from home.