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The Weeping Willow This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


When I was young, I used to cross a small, hidden stream in the depths of a forest. In my memory, it seemed to be in a perpetual state of autumn, treetops ablaze with fiery reds and oranges, with flurries of leaves occasionally drifting into the clear water. I would carefully toss pebbles into the stream, trying my best to aim the stones at equal intervals. Then, with a deep inhale, I’d make my way over to the other side. The water would collide with my worn-out sneakers, splashing the hem of my jeans. I would cross, arms spread wide for balance. But always, with a lopsided jump and uneasy landing, I would find myself where I wanted to be, shuffling my feet in the grass.
There were mysteries here, inexplicable things that could be seen but not understood. This was my sanctuary; my Terabithia, if such a thing could exist. Walking in silence, dragging my feet as if to lengthen each step, I would follow the dirt path and notice landmarks as I went. There was something like a teepee made of tree branches. Then there was a split log with annotations embedded in the bark. Everything seemed mysterious and cryptic then, and I delighted in the sights, no matter how many times I saw them.
At that age, I was a hopeless romantic; for example, I believed that every message in a bottle would somehow make its way to the right person. Every unseen nook and cranny was a hidden doorway to a parallel world, and a strange metal rod on the ground was a key (because, of course, it would be my destiny to pick it up).
My loneliness only served to magnify my already grandiose imagination. And it made the Weeping Willow that much more magical. When I reached the clearing, I would stop and stare up at the Weeping Willow for a long time. Its branches, hanging low to the ground, seemed to give off an air of the condemned. At the same time, however, it was the very picture of majesty.
I don’t remember how often I visited that place and scurried underneath the tree’s leaves. The willow’s arms would surround me, blocking the light. I felt an extraordinary sense of peace and security while hiding within that shield of foliage. I would sit there for hours with my eyes closed, humming the same two lines over and over again: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me / I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.
Seven years later, I returned to that spot simply because the thought had dawned on me. The stream was dry, and not even a trickle of water was left in the stone-filled chasm. As I looked around for the familiar items – the ghostly remembrances of my past – I had the strangest feeling that I was making my way to an old friend’s gravesite. Sometime in the past, the path had held so much significance; now it was nothing special.
I was eager, I have to admit, to visit the old Weeping Willow. The only image I had of it was from memory, which couldn’t be trusted. Nevertheless, the direction was straightforward, and it couldn’t be hard to find a tree that conspicuous.
I never got that far. I probably should have been expecting it, actually. I’m not even sure if I was surprised, or if I just turned back without a second thought. During my seven-year absence, more than half of the forest had been cleared. In place of the trees I remembered were tiled roofs and white panels. My beloved Weeping ­Willow had not been spared.
What I do remember on my walk out of the woods is, as if possessed by a sudden grip of nostalgia, I began to quietly hum the beginning of “Amazing Grace.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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SallySunshine said...
Sept. 18, 2010 at 8:42 pm
WOW!! That is AMAZING! I love Weeping Willows myself and I too believe they are the most magical tree I ever seen that can ever evoke a feeling!
 
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