My parents built a new house a couple of years before I was born. The old farmhouse was showing its years. Like most houses built in Eastern Oregon during the latter half of the nineteenth century, it was wisely located in a sheltered canyon with easy access to water.
The new, ranch-style house was up the road about a quarter mile, on a hill with views of several of the Cascade Mountains — Rainier, Adams, Hood, St. Helens, Jefferson, and smaller peaks like the Three Sisters.
My Tree Seat
My folks created a landscaped yard to be proud of, complete with fruit trees and various types of shade trees. The trees were mature by the time I was old enough to appreciate them. I couldn’t talk Dad into building me a proper treehouse, but he installed a sort of “seat” in one tree on the west side of the house (basically a couple of boards nailed to a sturdy branch). On nice days, I would grab a book and sit in the tree and read.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember what type of tree that was, but looking back, I think it may have been an elm. In spite of it being an excellent place for reading and thinking, it wasn’t my favorite tree. That honor belonged to a weeping willow on the east side of the house.
The Weeping Willow
The willow wasn’t as good for climbing, but I loved the grace and beauty of that huge tree. It shaded part of the lawn and one end of the house, including my corner bedroom.
Although there were many other lovely trees, the willow was the crowning glory. I guess my folks loved it too, because I never heard them complain about all the “switches” and leaves that had to be raked. That willow was beautiful, but it was messy.
Weeping Willow Lifespan
A few years after I grew up and moved away, I began to notice that beautiful old willow was failing. Little by little, it dropped its branches and in time, became sort of an unsightly stub. A lot more light could reach the yard, but things looked barren and forlorn without the willow.
I wondered why the tree failed the way it did after being hale and hearty for so many years. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, weeping willows are fast-growing but relatively short-lived trees. They often live only thirty years, but they may make it a couple more decades with adequate space and plenty of moisture.
The tree may be gone, but it lives on in my mind.