Her long, slender branches had finally grown back.
She had been trimmed down to the point of being just a naked trunk, awkward and ugly, but now the long swaying vines made her beautiful again.
People who came to sit down at the shore could catch her shade and be soothed by her long billowing hair.
The gardener who trimmed her down every fourth year was loving but strict. He knew that we all need that sometimes. To be stripped of too long, thick, hardening branches. To be naked for a while. Dwell inside and save up spring energy and then explode in streams of new life and stories.
Luisa was down at the shore today, sitting on one of the thick, calcified roots, her bones aching but not so much as you would expect from someone who was way over seventy. She was thinking about the small things, like what to cook for dinner and when her grandchildren would come by, but also about the big things, like how to live a full, sparkling life even when your hair is white and the animal of your body slows down.
She remembered something her grandmother Alicia had told her once about the trees.
“They are living beings, with spirits, like us baby girl. If you have questions, all you have to do is choose a tree you like and then knock on the trunk and ask. The answer will always be given, in some form. A voice, a sign, a song on the radio.”
Luisa turned her stiff back and knocked on the trunk of the Willow tree she loved so much. Her voice was sandy and hoarse when she put words on her ponderings.
“Tell me Willow…how do I grow older with lots of laughter and pride?”
She listened but heard nothing. Just the water and playing children somewhere close. She patted the bark anyway, thanked the tree for shadow and beauty and got up to do her daily errands.
When she walked up to the road she ran into the gardener who was busy, as always, with the soil and leaves and blossoms.
– She is a beauty, isn’t she? He smiled and nodded in the direction of the Willow.
– It’s the best place to sit in the whole village.
– You know, some people get mad when I prune the trees. It looks awful for a while, that is true for sure. But if you don’t do that, they grow out of control and the branches become too heavy for the trunk. You really need to help those trees by trimming away the old and make room for the new.
He was talking even though she hadn’t asked anything and he didn’t seem to wait for a reaction from her. He was still muttering when he walked back to his little truck.
Luisa’s knees went weak.
It couldn’t be.
The gardener brought the answer to her question.
Luisa went home that day and cleared out all of her closet and the spair rooms.
Then she welcomed the awkward emptiness, keeping the long, slender, light green branches of the Willow in mind.