Visiting the Willow

For the last few years, any time I’ve traveled to Charlottesville for classes or workshops, I’ve tended to travel through Spotsylvania County for the return trip.

This willow, on the edge of a farmer’s field, always surprised me. It radiated energy, such that I could be cruising along at 50 or 55 mph and it would catch my attention. I can’t explain the mechanism by which I felt this. I enjoy knowing the “whys” of things, but this sort of unknowing doesn’t give me pause; it just seems in keeping with the whole. The whole, in this case, was often not paying attention to where I was along the journey, but suddenly realizing the willow was approaching. (Yes, I was approaching the willow in my car, but it often felt as though the tree’s presence was reaching out to me before I consciously knew it was there.)

In general, willows tend to be my favorite trees. Perhaps this has something to do with my imprinting as a child, having read and loved—and still loving—Miss Twiggley’s Tree, a book written and illustrated by Dorothea Warren Fox with a good message for anyone, child or adult. The tree in the book was a weeping willow. The tree that I love seeing in Spotsylvania does not weep.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that willows are usually the first trees to leaf out and they give the air around them an energetic glow with their true spring-green color and the yellow of their catkins.

I’ve not much noticed their changes late in the season, but in the last couple of years, they seem to be the last to lose their leaves, too.

Before I began studying herbalism, I used willow bark (Salix alba) once to try to go after a headache. It contains salicin, and I believed it would provide some pain relief. I made a decoction of the bark and drank it in small amounts. Needless to say, it did not sit well with my stomach—and didn’t do much for my head, either. That was one of my first lessons with plants, one to remember.

The world seems to have a passionate relationship with willow as there are tales about willow from all the lands in which they grow. Just check Wikipedia for a short rundown.

I hope everyone has a favorite tree—or, if they don’t, then take the time to fall in love with one. They make our world what it is, give so much, and ask so little in return.

A close-up of the willow I love.

How many creatures has this willow sheltered?

What does the world look like from the willow’s point of view?

2 thoughts on “Visiting the Willow

  1. Willows love and are generally found in damp to wet soil areas (often along stream banks) . This is one reason they are often the last to lose there leaves (since lack of water stress is generally not a factor) since this is the last place to show dryness.

    Enjoyed reading your writings. Both here and in the Bay Weekly.

    • Good to hear from you, Roy. I appreciate this contribution. I cannot recall who told me, but I understand that settlers would often use willows as guideposts to find water so that they could site their dwellings within easy reach.

      Willows also can be coppiced, but I would hesitate to plant any too close to houses because of concerns around encroachment over (and through?) drains and pipes.

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