Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Under the Weeping Willow

When I was a young girl I used to sneak away, follow a winding deer trail through the redwoods, to a meadow that held a single, large weeping willow tree. That tree, that magical meadow was often the only solace and comfort I had as a child. A place where no screaming, no belts, no welts lived, only the sound of earth and trees and peace. Often I brought a book and an orange to the meadow but sometimes there was no time to grab such luxuries.

What I remember most about lying under her canopy was not crying about my less than ideal life circumstances, but loving the sense of this place, the joy, the smell, the colors and dappled light, its ethereal beauty, tucked into the redwood mountains. The weeping willow stood all alone, thoughtful, swaying her branches like a hula skirt. 

I spent countless hours with 'my' willow, reading, dreaming or writing in my battered journal I kept in a tin stashed in a nook of her trunk. 
I would write of the eccentric old "cat lady" in town, who had no money and lived in someone's garage. She had one ratty house dress and a pair of too big man shoes worn thin. But every penny she could scrape together she would buy cans of cat food and stack them in her rusty wire cart she'd pull with gnarled arthritic hands. She'd hobble, bent over her twisty legs, 4 blocks twice a day, every day no matter the weather, and feed those feral cats. I thought she and her scrawny cats were beautiful. I would save my pennies too and give them to her. She always rewarded me with her perfect toothless smile.

I would lie for hours in the grass, there by the willow tree, looking up at the sky, and be completely undone, unable to comprehend, to fathom that the sky went on forever. Infinite, I was told. But, I would think, it 
has to end somewhere. I would stare up into the blue and imagine a white wall somewhere WAY out there. But, what would be on the other side of the wall? More sky. 
But, it has to end somewhere. FOREVER sky just could not exist in my mind. I would go round and round with that for hours.

Much the same way I do now with trying to comprehend that there are people who scam people out of their hard earned retirement money running ponzi schemes. There are heinous people neglecting and  hurting children and the elderly. War and greed and sickness. Racism and prejudices. Why why why?

What I learned lying by the willow tree is there also exists luminous beauty and love and kindness in this world. While cruelty and greed may go on forever, so too does the sky and generosity, goodness, love.

It starts with us. With me. And you. Doing what is right, not worrying about what is popular, or profitable, or even safe... but what is right.

My childhood was often painful, but I smelled the earth and felt the peace and safety a willow tree offered. She was my personal 'giving tree' and I loved her. The Broken People did not break me. The wind did not break the willow's branches. Homelessness and an aged broken body did not stop an old lady from giving to hungry cats. We bend, we live crooked and find a way to love and give anyway.


JEM said...

Beautifully written. You're always an inspiration, Lola.

Heather said...

What an amazingly beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. This is a perfect reminder to see the good in life and do all we can to be a part of it.

Rachel Searles said...

Lovely essay. Thank you for sharing with us :)

Lexa said...

Wow this was beautiful. Thank you for sharing this story. We recently planted a willow tree in our backyard and while it's still young, I hope that someday it will provide the same solace to a young girl as your willow has to you.

Kelly said...

Absolutely beautiful, Lola. You made that tree come to life for us. And reminded us to know that for every evil, there is that much more good in the world, too.

The Golden Eagle said...

That's a beautiful story. :)

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

ooh very nice. Now i wish it was summer

Courtney Barr - The Southern Princess said...

Beautiful. You are such a beautiful soul. Evil can try so hard to dissuade us from seeing the good, but it forgets that there are willow trees, sunny skies, love, and dreams.

You are such an amazing person. I am forever grateful to know you and to share this journey. ;o)

Visit My Kingdom Anytime

Carol Kilgore said...

Lola...I had a good cry for you and your childhood. And for all the people touched by ugliness and pain in whatever form it takes. If more people took time to love and give instead of hurt and take, this old world would be such a better place. Kudos to you for sharing a bit of your story and for speaking out. Especially for those who can't speak out for themselves.

Jennie Bailey said...

Lola, words can't express how lovely this was. Heartwrenching and beautiful all at once.

Will Burke said...

Super essay! It seems that the more kindness we show, the more we see, but you said it better.

Linda G. said...

Wow. That was lovely. You are an amazing woman, Lola Sharp. And an amazing writer. :)

Lisa Potts said...

A hula skirt is a perfect description of the lovely willow tree.

Thanks for sharing, Lola. I'm glad that young girl found her peace and happiness.

Al said...

An amazing piece.
Thank you for sharing.

Jan Markley said...

Thanks for sharing.

Laura Pauling said...

I love willow trees! That was beautiful. I hope you're able to put some of that sadness and story into your writing. Thanks for sharing.

Old Kitty said...

May we all find our own special willow tree!!!

Thank you for sharing such a very treasured personal haven. Take care

Jan Morrison said...

Thanks Lola - I'm a kindred-druid spirit!

Melissa said...

This post is beautiful and heartbreaking. I wish more people could find the good and beauty in a world that's all to often cruel and ugly. Thank you for sharing this:)

Jeff King said...

What an amazingly beautiful/heartbreaking story.

Thx for sharing it with us.

M Pax said...

Love this - the hope radiating through and the love. It really is an amazingly beautiful piece.

Anonymous said...

This was so lovely, Lola. Thank you for sharing with us.

Jemi Fraser said...

I'm completely undone Lola - full of tears and hope at the same time. I do believe good will conquer evil - that humanity will keep moving forward until we eliminate those horrors. No child should live in fear or in need. We must get there. Must. Love is most definitely at the core of our future. Take care.

Deniz Bevan said...

Such a touching post, Lola. I read it at work today and thought people might be looking at me funny once I started getting teary.
There was an old willow in a park near my parents' house that all the kids in the neighbourhood used to play on, for years and years. But it was dying, and a few storms hacked at it here and there. They finally had to cut it down this past summer, and held a little ceremony before they did so. I miss that tree!

Vicki Rocho said...

I love willow trees. I've always thought they were magical. I ought to plant one in my back yard and then someday I'll build a little writer's shack underneath it...

Kazzy said...

You are success story.

I love the way you talked about smelling peace and safety.

Alleged Author said...

What a wonderful post! I felt as though I was there with you. Willow trees have always been a favorite of mine. They remind me of sweeping romances and far off places.

Kari Marie said...

Very eloquently written. Thank you for sharing.

Samantha VĂ©rant said...

As a child the weeping willows were my favorite tree too. There's something magical about them. And you brought the magic back with this post. Thanks, Lola!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

That was beautiful, Lola.

Weeping willows were my favorite when I was growing up. Still are.

Julie said...

Never a truer statement than "We live crooked and find a way to love and give anyway." Gorgeous writing, Lola. Thanks so much for sharing with us. No matter how dark the path we walk, we always have the choice to make our own sun and be happy.

TechnoBabe said...

Your special place under the willow tree speaks of peace and safety. I can picture you there taking in all that is being taught you in that place and carrying it forth into your life.

Hart Johnson said...

This was gorgeous, Lola--finding the beauty in life and seeing it for what it is. I have a weeping willow in my past, too, and I am just and fond, even if my experiences were less profound. It was in my grandma's yard and I spent about age 6-16 in that tree--there was a spot with a trine of branches where I could just comfortably sit... make up code for secret notes with friends...

Angela Felsted said...

What an inspirational message!

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

I love willow trees. What a beautiful metaphor and a wonderful message. I'm so happy that I've come upon your blog. Thank you!

Carolyn V. said...

That was so beautiful Lola! It made me sad and happy all at the same time. Excellent. =)

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

Maybe your most beautiful post to date. The last paragraph brought all the elements of your story together in such a magical way. What an ending! I too suffered a lousy childhood. I escaped to a tree too. Thanks for reminding me of her, my old friend, my tree.

((hugs)) Nicole

Lola Sharp said...

Dear sweet and thoughtful friends,

Thank you for your lovely comments.

I adore that so many of you also had a special weeping willow tree in your life.

Thank you for being in my life, friends.

Hugs...lots of hugs,

Pk Hrezo said...

oh, Lola.... I just loved this. I pictured it all perfectly. There is something so magical about a weeping willow. And I love that you loved the cat lady. How could you not.
Thanks for commenting on my blog yesterday. I was just wondering about you... and I made it a point to check out yours today. I just love your blog. :)

Peace and love, sister

Clarissa Draper said...

A lot of posts I'm reading today are laments of the horrible times we live in. I love the tree. We have lots of those in Canada and they're beautiful.

DL Hammons said...


Your words make me feel lighter. Stress-free. Peaceful.

Thank you! :)

Melissa Gill said...

Gosh Lola, I wish I had better words to tell you what your posts always mean to me. You are such a gifted artist. I hope you'll go on sharing with us, and with the world.

Susan Tiner said...

I love the image of you lying under the willow tree, lost in thoughts. Hugs Lola.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

God, that's gorgeous. Just like you. Thank you for sharing this piece of you, Lola. Such a poignant memory, filled with so much longing and hurting and wishing an dreaming. You've captured it so beautifully, wrapped up in the swaying branches of the willow.

Meredith said...

This is just a beautiful, heartbreaking, hopeful, thought-provoking post. Thank you so much for sharing it.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Wow. Lola, that was beautiful. And powerful. And I am speechless.

Carol Riggs said...

How lovely that you had a place to go, and you described it very nicely!

Jai Joshi said...

Lovely message, Lola.

I think a lot of people have a special tree from their childhood. Trees are like silent teachers. There was a willow tree in the park where I played often as a child. I spent hours in the shelter of that tree, reading, writing, dreaming. Such a perfect beautiful place.


Anonymous said...

I love this post. The writing and message are beautiful.

Lola Sharp said...

Y'all say the nicest things. Thank you.

Thank you most of all for taking time to stop by and visit me. I appreciate you all.

Thank you.

Tara said...

Weeping Willows are my favorite. I think I just fell in love with them all over again. :)

Mary Vaughn said...

This is so beautiful and profound. I believe everyone should have a willow cave in their life.

Lindsay N. Currie said...

That was beautiful Lola and I agree with you. . . weeping willows have a magical, other-worldly feel to them that lends itself very nicely to my imagination.

Thanks for stopping by my blog today. I've recently taken apart my old one (it was Webs.com and not at all user friendly!) and have started fresh and am working to build up followers. Appreciate your help along the journey:)

Tabitha Bird said...

That was beautiful. thank you for sharing :) We all need a willow tree I think.

Elliot Grace said...

...that's why your blog is named, "Sharp Pen."

Well done, Lola:)


Deniz Bevan said...

Hi again!
I just gave you an award :-)

Su said...

That was lovely. And I love the tree at the top!

Talli Roland said...

What a wonderful post. I can just imagine you under your tree, smelling the earth. So emotive.

Thank you!

roxy said...

Thanks for this post, Lola. It brought tears to my eyes, and really taught me something. When life becomes difficult for me, I know I'll think about your willow and kindness and the sky going on forever. Love your wisdom.

Lola Sharp said...

I feel very blessed that you guys take the time to come here and take the time to leave me such lovely comments.

I adore each of you.

Theresa Milstein said...

This is beautiful, Lola. During difficult times, we all need our refuge. How wonderful yours was a giving tree. There's something magical about willow trees.

Susan Fields said...

That was beautiful, Lola. I love your memory of the homeless woman feeding the cats. I remember grappling with the idea of infinity as a child, just like you've described.

Corinne O'Flynn said...

That was really lovely Lola. Kindness is always possible, and it is always a choice. Thanks for visiting my blog tonight - glad to connect with you.


Elisabeth Black said...

Isn't it amazing how children look on the bright side by their nature. I'm glad you had a place of comfort.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Wow! That was really good!
I especially like that last sentence:

"We bend, we live crooked and find a way to love and give anyway."

Wish I'd written it.
(Always a sign of my genuine respect.)

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

May your pen be mighty

May your pen be mighty

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Lola Sharp
My name is Lola. (I'm not a showgirl) Yes, L-O-L-A Lola. It's the least of my worries. Let's move on, shall we? This blog is mostly about my misadventures on the journey to publication and beyond. My passion for lush prose, quirky characters, art, music, literature, performing arts and anything creative will be a major theme here. This journey of mine will not always be pretty. Much like rubbernecking a train wreck, I know sometimes you just can't help but look at the carnage that is often my life. So strap on your neck brace, helmet and 5-point harness and come along for the ride! Licentia poetica.
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