When I was little, my mom used to drive me up to the Fullerton hills so that I could feed the horses. The ones we’d visit belonged to a family that had a vast expanse of property, complete with a ravine and a multitude of shade trees. Back then, you could see all the way down to Newport Beach from this particular location high above the city lights.
The horses would come up to the fence near where we’d stop the car, and I’d feed them carrots — the kind of carrots that still had their long, bushy green tops attached. I’d use the foofy greenery as a handle of sorts, and the horses would gladly munch away until I could no longer hold their treats. Within seconds, both the carrots and their leafiness would be gone. We never seemed to bring enough with us, so I’d always look forward to the next trip when I could deliver more.
One of the trees on the horse property was a magnificent weeping willow. The tops of the carrots reminded me of the tree, as well, since its greens were flowing and graceful. Ever since my younger years, I’ve associated weeping willow trees with the horses up in those hills.
The horses are long gone, and large estates complete with tennis courts and swimming pools have taken the place of my equine friends’ and the landscape on which they used to roam; it’s somewhat sad to see how things have changed up there. I don’t exactly remember the last time I saw them, but I do know that I didn’t get my fill of them before they were gone from that property forever.
On my walk tonight, I passed a home that had a weeping willow tree in its front yard. All of my memories came rushing back, and I looked at this particular tree in a new light — literally. It was softly illuminated by a home sitting about 15 feet behind it, and there was family activity inside. The dinner hour was upon them, and they looked happy to be together. The tree took on a sort of protective quality, as though its branches were enveloping the home in love and happiness.
If it could talk, I think the tree would tell us that it would like to shed its sad moniker. It would say that it is happy to provide plentiful shade during the warmer months, and that in cooler weather it is decidedly less stern in appearance than other trees. It would say that it grows so quickly not to get to the end of its life in a hurry, but instead because it has so much compassion to give that it can’t wait to give to others. I think it would proclaim its joy, and weep only tears of happiness.
Tonight I am thankful for the memories tonight’s weeping willow brought back to me, and for the shift in perspective that I have for such a familiar tree. I know it probably takes many a decade for those majestic trees to grow to a truly awe-inspiring height, but I’d kinda like to have one of my own someday. Or at least one nearby that I can enjoy. And maybe with a horse or two.