willow

Today begins the prima season. It is spring and the first season among equals. Her fresh beauty sleepily stretches and yawns while youthful sunshine struggles to warm winter run off. A shallow tributary cuts through the property, usually no more than a trickle, runs quickly with melting snow. Field and lawn are soggy and on shaded forest floors small mounds of cold snow stubbornly resist the thaw.

This sunlit spring Saturday has lured the Weald children outdoors. Josh and Joey are playing by the creek, fashioning boats of bark and leaves, racing them along shallow rapids. Lauren is brushing the dogs fur and singing a little song about pussy willows. Herself planning to spend the morning gathering fuzzy budding branches.

  • I know a little pussy
  • her coat is silver-grey
  • she lives down in the meadow
  • not very far away….

Bill is away for school. He began his first year at college this autumn past and will stay in residence until end of term. He is not the only one who has grown up. All the children are older.  Beth, who is now in grade 11, feels ages older than her younger siblings and is sometimes lonely without Billy. With a sigh and with book in hand Beth also heads outside. Her destination is the forgotten orchard. As she strolls, head disappearing into a book, Laurens song softly fades away behind her.

  • although she is a pussy
  • she’ll never be a cat
  • for she’s a pussy willow
  • now what do you think of that?

Reaching the orchard Beth is amazed to see how many trees have blossomed. Pink and white, a sweet fresh bouquet filling the branches with promised bounty. She chooses the apple tree closest to the sun and pulls herself upward onto the lower limb. Leaning her back against the curve of its trunk, legs straddling the branch and sunshine facing, she comfortably settles and opens a library copy of “Aurora Leigh”.  She has lost herself to the  old poem when a breeze swirls around the tree  causing blossoms to flutter. As the petals twirl around like ballerina tutus Beth laughs, her book falling to the ground. She suddenly desires to climb higher. Balancing on this branch Beth reaches upward gripping the next. One foot in front of the other balances upon the lower limb, arms above her head grasp the upper. Positioning herself  into the eye of a blush whirlwind.

The gusty air is cool but the sun is warm. These alternating sensations are arousing. closing her eyes and lifting her face to the sun her cheeks absorb the heat while the breeze kisses her neck.  For a moment, heavenly  …until the meditation is disturbed by distant shouting.

Beth’s eyes fly open and the left foot slips from the damp branch. She instinctively tightens her grip steadying herself. Heart racing she looks down. These apple trees are not tall and it may not be far, but she  would hate to fall. As Beth readies herself to swing down she catches a flicker of  intense colour at her peripheral. One glimpse then another. Is it a trick?

With both feet on pliant earth she begins to comprehend what she has seen. It is her tree. Her Christmas tree. The one she flagged with half a red sash years ago. As Beth approaches she can see something else. At the base of the evergreen is the book she lost that day. The same one she is reading now. Beth now recalls how she had put it down to tie the ribbon and forgotten it. Now soggy and bloated, the rotting novel is decomposing and returning to the earth.

This reminds her of  her current copy, the one from the library. Oh, she’s done it again. With a whack to her own forehead Beth doubles back. Retrieving it from below the apple tree, she shoves the paperback into her pocket and heads for home. All the way wondering, should she mention red sash still tree attached to the others?

As she approaches the house Beth now sees it is her siblings creating the ruckus heard earlier. Lauren, still singing, carries a fist full of willow branches. The boys nearby climb on the big rock in the side field. The three appear overly animated. Lauren dancing wildly and pointing with her free hand to the forest edge. Joey and Josh, jumping up and down and all around, hooting and hollering, causing the bulk of the commotion. They as well point toward the woods. Following their direction Beth now sees what they see.  There in the trees proudly flapping in the breeze, red ribbons.  Like victory flags, like prodigal sons come home, like a practical joke played on us. Obvious aurora on pine. A contrast  so intense it says “how did you ever not find us?” Lauren waves to her older sister still chanting;

  • meow meow meow meow
  • now what do you think of that?

 

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