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Liam's Willow

Monday, August 21, 2006


It is foolish
to let a young redwood
grow next to a house.

Even in this
one lifetime,
you will have to choose.

That great calm being,
this clutter of soup pots and books—

Already the first branch-tips brush at the window.
Softly, calmly, immensity taps at your life.

Jane Hirshfield

We planted this willow tree when I was pregnant with Liam. It was about six feet tall, a slender whip, its small leaves backlit by the evening sun. We tried to plant it far enough away from the septic tank that it wouldn't dip in for a drink, far enough away from the deck so it wouldn't touch when it grew up.

We had no idea.

The willow is seven now, Liam is six. He is long and lanky. It is enormous. By next summer, we will be able to reach out from our deck and touch the willow's branches. I've no doubt it will be in the septic tank by then, too. It is full of birds and it buzzes with cicadas. It is a citadel of foliage, a city of birds and insects. It's a habitat on a trunk.

What a metaphor for starting a family, this willow tree. So much bigger, so much grander, so much more wonderful, so much scarier and all-consuming than you ever could have imagined. The willow overspreads half the back yard, at seven. What will it be at 25? Who will Liam, he of the wooden trains, be at 25?

Softly, calmly, immensity taps at your life.


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