The unofficial end of summer is upon us. It's Labor Day weekend and I'm sad. I'm okay with the change of season. I'm sad because my old friend, a large weeping willow tree in a neighboring yard, is gone.
Sadly, the tree succumbed to a storm a couple of months ago. Its tall, stately body fell as gracefully as it could, held by the smaller trees around it so as not to crash on a nearby roof.
I weep for my old friend, the willow, because it faithfully provided me with signs of the changing seasons. It was particularly hopeful in early spring. The willow, with its lush, curving branches, would be the first to wear that subtle yellow-green shade. I counted on it to show me that spring was coming, even during a late winter snowstorm.
We had three large weeping willow trees in our yard when I was growing up. They were messy, with shedding limbs and leaves at inopportune times, but I loved them anyway. There was a grace to those willows. I loved to watch them sway in the breeze, their tender branches moving as if they were dancing. I wanted to call my family's rural property The Willows out of respect to our three lovely trees. I also liked the name because I was just becoming familiar with British cozy murder mysteries and all of the rural estates had names like The Willows.
Always practical, our willows provided wonderful shade on hot days. Their expansive canopies with long curving branches made for cool, comforting umbrellas under which to sit during our pre-central air conditioning years.
They also fed my imagination and became props for my little-girl whims. On one childhood play day, their slender branches were easily snapped off to become long tails when a friend and I decided we wanted to pretend we were horses.
As I gaze at the landscape today, the trees are still lush, green, and full, but there is a gap that will never be filled in the same way now that the large and lovely weeping willow is gone. I'll have other ways to identify the change of seasons, but the willow will no longer be there in its subtle, stately beauty to reassure me that spring is coming.