On willows and life

“The willow which bends to the tempest, often escapes better than the oak which resists it; and so in great calamities, it sometimes happens that light and frivolous spirits recover their elasticity and presence of mind sooner than those of a loftier character.”

Not entirely sure how I feel about this particular line from Albert Schweitzer (but he’s right), but when we think of willows, we naturally think of resilience. Although I once had a discussion with a tree surgeon about willows and it seems that reality may not quite equal the lofty view we hold of them. But still, they are beautiful trees – and much like humans both stronger and more fragile than we think. My willow lost its crown a few years ago following a freak early-October heavy snow, and somehow it managed to survive. It has, in fact, survived years of outright neglect – I’m not much of a gardener, and trees, in particular, are left to fend for themselves once they’ve been planted.

As I was out walking the dog yesterday, I paused under the willow to see how she was holding up. And I was struck by the bent and twisted limbs, and the interesting ways that the tree grew around its own difficulties. We humans lose much every day, and somehow we also manage to keep going.

There has been so much tragedy in the world recently that it’s been very hard to stay focused – or to write much. But I’m back on track to have my monthly #1000Speak post completed on the 20th – even though this is a school weekend, so free time will be limited.  I don’t want to detract from that post, but I do want to say couple of things now about a couple of things that have already been well-covered.

The massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was a hate crime because terrorism is a hate crime. And a hate crime is a form of terrorism. It may or may not have been ‘terrorism’. Sane people do not massacre people. All of the above are true. To get caught in a trap of arguing over what to call this tragedy, places undue emphasis on one ideological killing over another, and only serves to distract from the fact that people were killed. And people were injured. And even more people had their entire world shattered. All indications now are that shooter was, at best, confused, and probably full of self-loathing. The irony of that should not be lost. The LBGT community is subject to much in the way of hate, and they are also frequently driven to extremes of emotion by their own religions, cultures, families when they, and those around them, do not accept, or allow them to accept, who they are. Generally they turn that confusion inward and harm themselves. But not always.

Like the parents of the toddler that fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, the parents that lost their toddler to an alligator at Disney World should not be judged by the superior beings of the internet. In fact, for Disney to hold an event for children and their parents at a lagoon, at dusk, in alligator county without posting very large ‘Beware of Alligators’ signs, puts much of the liability at their feet (& yes, there were ‘no swimming’ signs – but you never allowed a child to wade into water in a ‘no swimming’ zone? Or ignored any other posted signs?). Gators are very quick and very strong. People not from Florida often don’t understand that. And whenever I go hiking in state and national parks, anywhere in the US, they all post signs reminding you of the dangers of whatever form of local predator you might encounter. I’ve  even encountered a rattlesnake warning at a rest area in New Mexico. An alligator warning is the very least you should do at a spot that markets to children.

Humans are much like the willow – we are generally resilient enough to survive the tragedies of our lives, and our losses, but we are also changed forever. In ways both seen and unseen.

Photo taken up through the canopy of my lone willow, June 16, 2016


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