Today I went to visit the willow tree.
I've seen it a few times from a distance, mostly from the fifth floor of the library. I decided it was time to introduce myself.
The willow tree stands on the eastern edge of the pond closest to the library. It's in good company with few giant oak trees near by. I bundled up and set out in the cold and wind under gray skies and walked across campus to arrive in the grass next to the willow tree.
I grew up thinking that willow trees had some magic to them. They're such great beings. They're unlike other trees. They have gentler, more down to earth feel to them. It might be that my mother passed along her love of willows to me. Or maybe there was a book or a cartoon that had a willow tree in it. It might be that I imagine willow trees as wise old men, their slopping branches an aged frame and delicate leaves like a beard.
I startled a lady duck as I approached the willow. I stood still until she was comfortable enough to go about her business. I stood next to the willow tree and admired his shape, the way some of his branches dipped into the water, creating perches for resting ducks. The branches came down around the trunk in a circle like am umbrella. I walked around the edges in a semicircle and then I stepped inside. From there, it looked like the willow tree had claimed his little bit of water and was looking over all the creatures that took refuge in it and came to visit. I stood there for a little bit, took a few photographs, noted the metal tag nailed into its bark, and listened.
It was an awkward first meeting. I didn't hear anything. I stared blankly at it for a while, waiting for it to make the first move. I watched the ducks around it for a while, seeing if I could take cues from them. I looked at the ground to see that I wasn't trampling any roots. I looked up, searching. Then stepped out from its cover. From right next to it, I wondered it maybe instead of an old man, it was a terrible teenage girl flipping her hair. Maybe that's why she didn't talk to me--I wasn't cool enough.
From a few feet away, I wondered it the willow tree was a witch like character, with crazy out of control hair and bony limbs, stirring up trouble in the pond and putting spells on the birds.
I still think willow trees have the souls of old men. Wise and worn, kind but with mischievous smiles. I hope my visits will become less awkward. Maybe he's just shy in fall -- leaves changing color, branches exposed, feeling vulnerable. I'd like it if we could be friends.