Willow Branches

reddirtlattes/ February 27, 2018/ Gulf Islands, Canada/ 3 comments


Deep within the dark Pacific Northwest winter I went to the island nursery to get some eucalyptus branches for my bathroom. It not being the season for eucalyptus branches the gentleman offered me some cut willow tree.

I asked him if they would last long.

He said you could actually stick a willow branch into dirt and it will grow into a tree with the right amount of water and light.

I told him my bathroom was dark and I just needed them to last the winter until the eucalyptus came in.

He suggested putting them in water to prolong their decay but that there was no way they would grow without light, or soil.

They weren’t much to look at. Just a bunch of bald sticks. I almost threw them out. Three times I took them outside to the compost and then changed my mind and brought them back in.

They bothered me. They looked so tangled and stark. 

But I left them, and tried to ignore how much they unsettled me.

I think it was my son who saw the first root. Then more roots came, then buds, and finally green. Willow trees were growing in the dark, in a vase, in my bathroom. Without soil, without light, they were growing. 

The roots became a matrix and the green burst forth and after a few months I saw the branches were struggling and now needed more so I brought them out to my sun drenched living room.

Spring is whispering and the sun is growing stronger while my willow branches drink and devour it. I fill their vase daily with water, they keep getting greener, their leaves keep getting fuller and I tend to them and care for them, as these branches have become sacred to me.


                   “I saw a country road lined with tall shade trees. I saw fields, cattle, a village below the trees. I don’t know what book or picture I had got that from, or why a place like that should have seemed to me safe. But it was the picture that came to me, and I played with it. The mornings, the dew, the fresh flowers, the shade of the trees in the middle of the day, the fires in the evening. I felt I had known that life, and that is was waiting for me again somewhere.” –A Bend In The River, V.S. Naipaul 



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  1. Sabrina,

    I posted a lengthy comment on “Willows” and it inexplicably disappeared. Puff. Mabey because I mentioned the word ‘magic’. I am going to attempt the almost impossible—reconstructing it. Sometimes when I do this, the second time around is better than the first. But I thought the first was pretty good, so I dunno. Well, here goes.

    Growth. One of the great mysteries of the universe. Inevitable, magical, inexplicable, wonderful. Disappointing. All things alive need to grow. Why? Why not? I believe everything has an opposite. Growth, decline. Growth equals life. Life eventually morphs into death. And the world goes round and round.

    I am impressed about the moribund willow plant has been progressing so well. I am an avid gardener since my kids grew up and left the homestead. I had an in-ground swimming pool dug up, taking up our whole large yard. Didn’t want to maintain it anymore. My wife liked grass and growing things. So, I replaced with the fruits of my newly found love, gardening. I marvel at what this neophyte has done in transforming my neck of the world in a natural space of beauty and growth. However, when it comes to indoor plants, I am a killer. I never succeed. Outdoors, I have a green thumb.

    Growth means life. Vitality. Inevitability. Magic. Astonishment. Satisfaction. Necessary. Eventually, decline and death. A home groomed in growth, brings to life all around your implanted place in the world. You are surrounded by change, amusement, excitement. And that is good, making a life worth leading.

    The fact that you made a scrawny withering branch that, on death’s door, grow and prosper, means the vitality of your being brings a spark of life and liveliness to your abode; and that bodes well for you and your family and for yourself. It imbues you with purpose, meaning, that you count for something larger than yourself. You become part of the world surrounding you.

    Growth is a wonder of the cosmos. It gives meaning to existence but everything, I believe, has an opposite. Growth means to prosper, to become vital, to change, and yes, to decline and die.
    The inevitable cycle of existence.

    The magic of growth can be seen in a time lapsed recording of the daily cycle of a flower or another plant. You see a seed shoot up above the dirt as if an invisible hand pushes it skyward. The emerging stem reaches a certain height and then stops. In the dew of the morning, the pedals encased in a protective somnolence of night, slowly emerges from its slumber and opens its wings. Bees soak up its pollen and create new life through pollination. And the cycle repeats itself, until nourishment runs out and the end is forthcoming. And the cycle of the universe begins all over again. What a marvelous process. Something like this is repeated throughout the planet. Nothing ever stays the same. Life should not be boring. It is always a mix between excitement, even exhilaration, and sadness, saying goodbye.

    Growth is a process of creation to a point. It is expansive, unavoidable, unless the human touch expands one’s girth through an overactive fork. Then life begins to decline, right on schedule; a process called aging resulting in death. For the flower, pollination results in new seeds being spread and the cycle of life begins again. For the human, a different kind of seed is implanted.

    By giving that willow branch a chance at growth, means you are a spreader of life. My gardening gives me such pleasure seeding my back yard and watching it growth taking place.

    One morning 51 years ago, I was waking up in my bed as a 21-year-old college senior. It was 9:00 a.m. No classes that morning since I controlled my scheduling. I was facing the window and the sun shined brightly illuminating my thoughts. I was thinking about facing graduate school the next year. Also, my life following grad school. It was peaceful, ruminating thoughts in between yawns and stretching and……something else. I was thinking that I better appreciate this life that I loved so much, because I will never have it so good again with the added responsibilities for being responsible.

    Then, the peacefulness was suddenly interrupted by pains in both ankles and calves. I realized I was experienced growth pains. I knew I would soon never experience it again because growth for males ends usually in the 21st year; for females, it ceases around 18. Imagine growth taking place that very moment. I can’t see it. I am doing nothing to promote it. It is the universe doing its thing following a script of universality, and I could only feel it and wince. Interestingly, in early adolescence females are more developed that males, but by late adolescence, males catch up and even surpass them. However, life expectancy sees females as the genetically stronger sex. Inexplicably, in terms of physical strength, males tend to be stronger.

    When we stop growing, adding new cells in each regeneration cycle, we start declining, dying. It is important that we embrace this process of existence and make each phase meaningful for ourselves, our loved one, strangers, and humanity. The last few years has been difficult to accept the effects of decline, particularly my arthritic ridden deteriorating spine. I have lost 3 inches in height from 5’11 to 5”8. Every step we take since we stopped growing contributes to the natural lessoning of height. The discs get squeezed and eventually flatten and dry up losing its’ elasticity. The destructive effects of arthritis, and you change. I use a cane to help my balance, yet I still remain as athletic as I can manage, playing table tennis at a fairly high level three times a week. No basketball or baseball for me, but I have a better appreciation of the fragility of life. I take pleasure in creating life in my garden. And, on my upcoming 47 wedding anniversary this August, I am expecting my third grandchild, a boy. So, my own seeds took 38 years to spawn more life. It will have been 11 years since my last grandchild was born. Appreciation of being a life giver rather than a life taker, being contributive to keeping the cycle alive—there is no greater satisfaction one can have.

    Maybe this explains why some plants beginning at the same time, grow taller and some are weaker, and some die prematurely. How interconnected all life is. And how differentiated it is also. Life is like a puzzle or maze.

    And the cycle of life, growth, decline, and eventual death begins all over again. Think about it Sabrina. By nurturing that seedling or little scrawny root branch, you have contributed to the cycle of life all over again, as you did with birthing your son and raising your daughter. It makes me feel that all of us are guided by something else. Call it instinct, call it the Creator, call it the cosmos. It doesn’t matter what it is called. All that matters is that we become a creator of life, not a destroyer. We are all part of something bigger than just ourselves. Being conscious of our own individuality and commonality makes us feel more worthwhile in that small little nitch like your nurturing to growth that little plant It enhances our place in the vast, very vast cosmos.

    Seymour Schwartz

  2. Remarkable.

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