It’s a beautiful fall day. All the leaves are changing to shades of yellow and orange. They flutter down to the ground whenever there’s a gust of wind. Some fall into rolling fields of grass, others float down a nearby stream. There is one tree though that isn’t losing its leaves. There is a girl sitting on a branch of this tree that hangs out over the babbling stream. She, like the tree, is different than the others. She just sits alone in this tree for hours every day. She looks down stream dreaming about what could be better than what she is experiencing every day. She is pale, unusually pale for a girl just coming off of summer. She looks sad and defeated by the weight of the world on her shoulders. The tree she sits on is a willow tree and with each day this girl comes the branches of this tree seem to sag towards the ground. The weight of the girls struggles weighing down this tree. The leaves of the tree are now dangling in the water. If it weren’t for the branches holding them up the leaves would either float down the stream of sink to the bottom. Dose the girl have any branches to keep her from sinking?
Every day at 4 pm this pale girl comes and sits on a branch of the willow tree. She has been looking solemnly down at the stream for the past 2 weeks. She does the same thing for hours every day. Although today something is different. The girl gets to the branch that hangs out over the water and lets her feet hang down when she feel something. She pulls her feet back up and they are dripping water. This branch used to sit four feet above the water, what has changed? Does this tree feel as weighted down as she does? She’s been feeling the weight on her shoulders mounting for the past few weeks. Almost all of the beautiful fall leaves have fallen down around her, but this tree still holds all of its leaves in their yellow and orange colors. Why doesn’t it just die like all the other trees? The girl leaves the tree after a few hours of pondering this question. The next day something will be different.
It’s 4pm and the girl is back sitting on her tree branch. Today she doesn’t look down stream wishing for something different or better. Today she has a journal and a pen. She just sits on this branch and writes with great haste for hours without looking up. After a few hours she shuts her journal and walks away from her tree and the stream. She didn’t do anything extraordinary, but what she did is changing a lot. The next day she comes and does the same thing as the day before. Something is different. Her pale lifeless skin seems to be a little more alive today. Her dry limp hair appears to have more body than it has for months. She writes several more pages today. At the end, before she shuts her journal she does something she hasn’t don’t in a long time. She smiles to herself at something she wrote. She looks up at the sky and sees the sun shining through the leaves of her willow tree. It casts orange and yellow colors onto the stream creating the illusion of a water color painting. It’s a beautiful scene. She gets up and leaves this photographic place when she notices a few leaves from the willow tree in her hair. She doesn’t think much of it and continues on her way. Something has changed and it’s definitely for the best.
Two weeks like this have passed and the changes to the girl and the tree are immense. The pale see through girl has now regained a skin color that is more common to her Native American heritage. Her hair that just laid flat against her head now has body with her natural wave in it and shines in the bright afternoon sunlight. She wears a smile on her face and it’s her favorite accessory that never gets left behind. The tree has also changed with subtlety every day. When she sits on her branch and lets her legs hang down they rest about a foot above the surface of the water. The water is spotted with orange and yellow willow leaves and the leaves still on the tree hang just above the glass appearance of the water. She climbs up on to her branch and opens her journal, but before she starts writing she looks all around her. The weight on her shoulders has strangely dissipated and the branches of the tree seem to know. It physically shows how she feels. This place reflects the beauty she needs to see. She focuses on her writing until she writes the last word that will fit on the last page of her journal. She closes her journal for the last time and climbs down from her spot. She looks at the branch and sees how there is a bend in the branch from where she always sits, but the rest of the tree seems to be as strong as it was when she first started coming here months ago.
The next day is the last day the girl ever comes to the willow tree, but she doesn’t come alone. With her is a girl that appears to be her age and a boy that might be a year older. Their laughter can be heard by all the living things around the stream and tree before the group of three can even see the girls tree. Once arriving to the spot the three friends stop and the two strangers look around. They seem unimpressed with this willow tree. That is until the girl tells them the story of how this tree has changed from the good to the bad to the good again over the past few months. They listen unable to believe the transformations this tree has gone through. Then they look at the girl and can’t believe the transformation that she has gone through. They smile knowing all that she has said is true and set out to do what they came here to do in the first place. They start by digging a hole in the ground forty feet away from the tree and then put rocks around the ridge of their hole. They then gather some sticks that are on the ground and build themselves a little fire. After admiring the dancing flames the girl pulls out the journal she has been writing in for the past two weeks. She opens it and starts to read a few of the lines out of the writings.
“No one ever notices me. They don’t see all the good things I do. They only notice the times when I fail, maybe that’s all I’m good at. Failing.” After reading this writing to her friends she rips out the pages and throws them into the fire and watches the flames engulf the negativity of the pages. What they don’t notice is more of the leaves from the tree have fallen. She continues with some more of her writings.
“I don’t know how everyone can have a friend but me. Is there not one other lonely person like myself out there who needs a friend too? Maybe it’s the depression and anxiety talking… but even still can I have one person to talk to?” Once again she finish that days writing and rips it out and feeds it to the flames. More leaves continue to fall behind the group. She reads some more of the first weeks writing and repeats the pattern of ripping them out and watching them disappear in the fire. Almost as if they never existed. Then she reads a writing from the beginning of the second week.
“I started talking to some people today! A girl named Aspen and a guy name Cole. Aspen is a really sweet and likes to write. We are in the same English class together and we are going to hang out after school tomorrow. And then there’s this boy and he actually asked me if I wanted to go on a date! No one has ever wanted to go on a date with me let alone talk to me. Maybe things are starting to look up.” Even with this upbeat writing she still rips it out and throws it into the fire. Her friends smile at her writing and see that she’s doing better. The leaves are still falling from the tree. She then reads the rest of her writings and then gets to the last one.
“Life was once such a hard and unrewarding struggle that I had to drag myself through every single day. Before finding this willow tree I didn’t know how much more I could take. But something about this place made me want to keep coming back. It was like whenever I was here I felt like the earth was taking away all of the bad things from me. It gave me a new perspective on life as well as made me see not only the beauty in the world around me and the beauty that is inside myself. I don’t know what I would do without this special willow tree and babbling stream. I have them to thank for this shift in my life. I must now leave this place for the next lost soul to find. This magical tree will relieve the lost soul of the weight it carries as well as open their eyes to the magic that is in every beautiful day. Good bye and thank you for your ordinary magic.” With those concluding remarks the girl doesn’t rip these pages from the journal but instead walks away from the fire and puts it in a now bare branch of the willow tree for someone else to find one day. The two friends sit by the fire and wait for the girl to come join them.
“Willow, do you know why that tree is called a weeping willow?” Cole wraps his arm around her. Willow looks quizzically at him, puzzled by his odd question.
“No why?” Cole smiles as the fire lights up his face.
“Legend has it that the branches of the tree holds all the weight of the secrets and struggles of every person in the world. That is why they hang down. They are here to make you see that beauty can come from the darkest and saddest of places. I guess you learned that out for yourself though.” Cole nudges Willow’s shoulder with a smile which she returns.
“I guess I did.” With that the friends put out their fire and look once more back at the willow tree. Willow gives a small wave and the three friends walk away with the knowledge of the bright life they have instore for them. All thanks to a willow tree that hangs over a clear stream.
Written by Nicole Nielson, WLLC 2015-2016