Listening to Willows

I sit under a great weeping willow that weeps its willowiest on the edges of Taylor Creek Park. I talk to trees. No, I don’t think they can hear me. I hear no voices in my head besides my own hollering while mentally wearing a cooking pot on my head, clanging it with a wooden spoon. I holler “Pay attention to me! Pay attention to me!” like a bratty child. I talk to trees to distract me from this bratty child. No, it can’t hear me. No, I can’t hear it. I’m insane, but not that level of insane. Not now, not yet.

I am reminded every time I see a weeping willow of words of anecdotal wisdom from my mother when I was very young and wanted to climb one. “Weeping willows are very buggy. You should leave them alone or you’ll get covered in bugs!” I have decided to ignore this for two reasons: 1) I have no evidence that this is indeed true, and I really am the type of person that needs to make mistakes to learn lessons, and 2) I have already been covered in bugs three times (!) in my life. Ants all three times. And I apparently am the type of person that needs mistakes to happen several times before those lessons stick.

Today is different. Today this tree tells me a story. It is an origin story. Every hero needs an origin story, and trees are super heroes.

It tells me in moving pictures. It tells me in dreamscapes. I see an old tinny landscape. It is covered with rusty cogs, dissolving iron girder bridges and fallen metal archways. It smells of engine grease and sweat and blood. It swirls of misty smoke and bad ideas. A great castle sits upon a rocky craig overlooking a red brick ocean. Inside a kingdom of plant folk of all shapes and sizes are celebrating an end of times.

Creatures that resemble those of stories drink from beer-stein-sized watering cans: Ents, Swamp Things, Man-Things, Medphylls, Floronic Men, Groots, Green Men, Faduahs, Delvians, Palmons, Mushroom Men, Triffids, Moss Men, Great Pumpkins, Bulbasaurs, Audrey II’s, Treants, Mandrakes, and the like sing songs of ancient lore and escape the disintegrating metallic world outside their keep. There is a sadness offset by cheery optimism.

Besides the language-less billowy woodwind singing, they only communicate messages of love and of peace and of calm through vibrations and tiny electrical impulses they pass from one another. Any past aggressions put aside. But the oboes, flutes, clarinets, bassoons, piccolos and the vibrations all stop suddenly. A mighty Ent addresses them, its leafy beard ruffling in the breeze. Though words are not used, all party-goers understand the message.

“Gather your seeds, your spores, your pollen and clippings. The meaty race is gone. They have taken this poisoned home with them. Our days are numbered, but we won’t disappear. Our memories will go on and find new homes and start new civilizations.”

The ground opens and the biggest of sunflowers rises from the floor of their castle. Thousands of sunflower seeds, some the size of great Earth whales split open and the plant beings load them with the seeds, spoors, pollen and clippings that the Ent had instructed them to gather.

Once each huge seed is full, they are sealed and the great sunflower grows up, up, up, through the castle’s ceiling. It grows and grows until its huge pedals pass through the troposphere, through the stratosphere, through the mesosphere, the thermosphere and the exosphere…into space. It fires the seeds out into space, shooting these pods like missiles or rockets.

Like Superman’s origin story, they escape their dying planet.  Unlike Superman’s origin story, they look for suitable dead planets waiting for life, and prime for terraforming.  

Over the next millennium (in Earth years), one solitary seed finds a little planet in the milky way galaxy. Third planet from Sol. It’s perfect. There is water. There is warmth and light. It crashes onto surface and explodes, sending its dormant booty, like great waves of multicoloured powdery smoke, all over the globe. Filling this rock with memory and promise and hope. Gods creating.

Over more than Thirteen Thousand Million years later I talk to an ancestor of this smoke, it still retaining the memories of its home world. And the home world before that. Species of all shape and size climbing, eating, digging up, burning, hugging, burrowing into, calming, fermenting, intoxicating, harvesting, sawing, clipping, wooing, inspiring, pecking, sneezing at, infesting, cutting down, planting, building with, smoking, widdling, living in, living under, and giving life to are all catalogued in this memory. Nothing is forgotten. No one.

This willow tells me these stories in dreamscapes. Their truths perhaps all part of my own imagination. Part of my whimsy and part of my heart. Part of an inner cautionary tale. Part of my guilt and part of my longing for some tiny grasp of immortality. I usually talk to trees, but I rarely listen.

By the time the story has played out in my silly brain, I open my eyes and I’m covered in bugs. Again. Because I apparently give off some sort of ant pheromone and perhaps the damn things find me irresistible, but more than likely because I am of the meaty race and I have trouble learning from my mistakes.

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