I’ve always admired the graceful beauty of a willow tree with its long thin branches dancing in the slightest breeze. Maybe it’s because I lived in Los Angeles for a number of years where most of the trees (palm) looked like a telephone pole sporting a spike hairdo.
About 10 years ago, I found a young willow at a roadside nursery, plunked down twenty bucks and hauled the skinny thing home. I planted it in the side yard and watched it grow quickly into a mature tree. Our side yard runs along the street and sidewalk. It was not unusual for passersby to comment on how pretty the tree looked. The neighbors across the street frequently commented how much they enjoyed it from their back patio view.
Last summer and fall we had a long dry spell that went on for months. It continued into the fall and all the trees dropped their leaves early. I wondered about the willow because I’d observed over the years it was one of last to shed its leaves in fall and last to leaf out come spring. April turned to May and finally, amid many lifeless branches, a few new shoots popped out and I felt a sense of relief. But a couple weeks later those few green leaves began turning black and I knew my willow wasn’t going to make it. Damn.
This past weekend my son and I took it down. The neighbor across the street came over to say she “mourned the loss.” Sometimes firing up my small chain saw is fun. Mostly I’ve helped other friends cut up big limbs that crashed down in a storm. This job wasn’t fun and it was all the worse owing to the 90°-plus heat and high humidity. But in about four hours the willow was gone, the burnable parts stacked to further dry for winter’s fires. I know the wood isn’t worth much as firewood, but I figure I’ll get a chance to enjoy that tree in a different way a few more times. Sort of cremation, you might say.
I also set aside a couple of small crotches and a chunk from the base, painted up the ends with Anchorseal, and will use it turn something nice this winter. You can see the crotches on the top right area of the stack. I can see them as nice platters with the “feather” figured area running down the center. I expect the stringy wood will be a challenge, but turning a few nice pieces from the graceful willow will help evoke the memory of a favorite tree for years to come.
— Steve Shanesy is editor and publisher of Popular Woodworking Magazine
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