It was perhaps 1981 when I collected the furry little silver catkins from the willow tree in our garden and put them in a tiny metal tin that has a hinged lid bearing a picture of Mr Strong. I’ve investigated now and then over the years, so I know that they’ve never lost their softness.
The two grey-furred companions that have been part of different stages of my life have both loved climbing the willow. It forked in two directions, one leaning towards the house, the other away from it.
The halves were wrenched apart by the storm in the first week of December 2013, which brought most of the tree crashing down right across the garden, tore the trunk apart and left a sliver of tree teetering precariously without visible means of support.
It also revealed the lower half of its massive neighbouring fir tree, strangely naked and also looking vulnerable for the first time.
My brother has slowly excavated the garden, a bit at a time, reclaiming it from beneath the wreckage. The twigs were bagged up and removed, the branches cut into a stack of timber, the trunk cut painstakingly into three sections. The smallest piece he used ingeniously to prop up a smaller tree that the next storm had tried to bring down. The middle section he placed carefully as a feature along the rockery. The main section remains where it fell, unmovable, with the plants it squashed when it fell gradually finding their way around it.
The fallen willow is laying across one of the paths, but it’s firmly set. It’s a handy extra bench though. And when I sat on it two days ago, May Day 2014, what I discovered is…
…it’s still alive.