Sharing the Broken Willow

Trees can have profound meaning in our lives. I know that the Monkey Puzzle in my garden is like an old friend as he gazes in the study window. There was also a tree on my grandmother’s farm in Co. Meath which served as the gathering point for us and our cousins. It could be anything from a hideout, boat, galloping horse, kitchen, chat-room or ‘base’ in all those chasing games …..

The other evening at the WORDS  Writers Group event, one of the participants told us of how a willow tree that she had planted in her garden with her father many years back to mark a significant milestone had been blown down in the recent storms. It wasn’t just any tree, it was one that had been nurtured, loved and deeply appreciated.

She then produced a huge bag with cuttings from the Willow and asked us all to place them in water and hope that they would spring roots. It was one of those moments when the sharing of grief was palpable and it felt as if the collective heart in the room was baring itself to reveal an inner layer that’s seldom displayed among relative strangers.

I suspect that everyone who received a precious cutting thought long and hard about where they would put it and how they could give it the best chance of re-rooting. I put mine in a Waterford Glass vase that was the most precious vase belonging to my late mother who absolutely adored trees. For now, it’s getting some welcoming cuddles from ivy and dried Honesty and Pampas!

By sheer coincidence, I came across a poem this morning, by the great Waterford poet, Sean Dunne, which is driving my hopes even further that the broken willow will re-root between us all:


Sheltered in the cool nursery

of the young century, I grew

in chequered silence. The voices

of men ignored me and I heard

instead the wind’s word.

I liked burdocks and nettles

but loved the silver willow most of all.

It was my friend for years.

Its weeping branches fanned

my insomnia with dreams.

To my surprise I outlived it.

Now just the stump’s left.

Other willows with strange voices

murmur beneath our skies

as I sit in silence, as though

a brother had died.

(from Collected Sean Dunne, Gallery Books, 2005)