Thursday, August 11, 2011

Adieu to Grandmother Willow

We visited Coldwater Springs last evening as a family to bid farewell to a favorite tree.  The willow that has adorned the northeast side of the reservoir called "Grandmother Willow" has been condemned to be removed.  I haven't yet decided if I will drive over to watch any of the process which is now scheduled for August 18 at 8:00 AM.

There are so few things in our country that are permanent and perhaps that's why I feel a twinge that this beautiful tree will be reduced to woodchips by this afternoon.  I understand the rationale for the removal: public safety is paramount.  But many voices are saying that the expedience is unwarranted and that allowing it to fall naturally would be more honoring.  After listening to elders speaking about the tree they call Grandmother Willow, I hear a different worldview than most suburban families understand.  This has been part of the scene since they started visiting the spring, not "just a tree."  It's a connection to place, to memories.  It's about connection.  And there are some people who are grieving.  Some people grieve pets, others buildings, others trees.  Grief is real to the person and part of acknowledging each other's dignity is acknowledging that we might see the world differently.  And you might emotionally process things differently -- and the beauty is getting close enough to someone that they will actually share this deeper side of them with you.

When I visited a church from 350 AD in Bulgaria and the ruins of Phillipi, I felt like our American history icons are little babies.We have so little that was built to stand the test of time.  We build.  We tear down.  We develop.  We build things on top of things.  We count it all as progress.  Not many people go to sit beneath a willow for hours, praying, talking, relaxing.  But those who do have some sadness today as Coldwater springs begins the growing pains of restoration.  I have no doubt that it will be beautiful oak savannah in a few years but the progress looks ugly.

My son Caleb held my hand as we walked around the pond last night taking pictures.  How different from almost two months ago when we joined others during World Peace and Prayer Day for the water ceremony.  Now there are deep archeology dig shafts, pink tape, hazard signs and it's a construction site.  Twenty years from now it will be a beautiful site with maturing trees and hopefully no residual signs of the ugly Bureau of Mines buildings that are currently tagged with graffiti and spotted with broken windows.

 So we took pause and enjoyed a gorgeous Minnesota summer evening at the springs one last time before the demolition begins today with the removal of this gorgeous elder tree. I know that Caleb has enjoyed the time we have spent in her shade and hope that somehow he will be able to remember this precious family time together at the site of this bubbling spring.