The wind in the willow

Some might stand in the aftermath of a ferocious storm and wonder how they will ever enjoy another warm summer day.

My talented friends Vern and Deb Wilmot built a bench, and I think it’s one of the coolest metaphors I’ve seen in a long, long while.

The storm that whipped through Appleton earlier this summer, spawning five tornados and knocking out power to almost all of us, yanked a giant willow tree out of the Wilmot’s gorgeous backyard.

It left the stately old tree, planted by the couple when they first moved into their home, splayed out across a garden that just the day before had included fairy houses and twinkle lights.

Vern and Deb wasted little time mourning the destruction. Retired teachers, they yanked on their work gloves and dug in.

That part happened all over town, with people matter-of-factly digging in, and neighbors helping neighbors with the massive cleanup.

In fact, five of Vern’s friends — Dave Sievert, Chuck Bender, Al Robinson, Dennis McComber and Dean Haas — like Vern, all members of the Grand Chute Lions Club’s “wheelchair ramp crew,” showed up to help the Wilmots clear their giant willow tree.

This whole Midwestern get-out-there-and-get-the-job-done attitude would have been impressive enough, but the Wilmots went one better.

They fashioned a bench from the fallen timber, offering that gentle old tree a second life and a dignified way to resume its position as protector of the family. Now, instead of offering shade, it offers comfort and a place to rest.

I kept thinking, as I looked at the sturdy little bench standing sentry in the Wilmot’s beautiful garden, of the Wind and the Willows and this quote:

“For this is the last best gift that the kindly demi-god is careful to bestow on those to whom he has revealed himself in their helping: the gift of forgetfulness. Lest the awful remembrance should remain and grow, and overshadow mirth and pleasure, and the great haunting memory should spoil all the after-lives of little animals helped out of difficulties, in order that they should be happy and lighthearted as before.”

We’ll all face terrible storms but how comforting to know people, like Vern and Deb and many others I’ve met, who can withstand all the terrible storms life throws their way and still find their way back to joy and lightheartedness.

The storm that rolled through Appleton in July upended the Wilmot’s stately old Willow Tree. (Photo courtesy Deb Wilmot)
So, they and their friends and neighbors dug in and went to work. Note the size of this slice of the trunk! (Photo courtesy Deb Wilmot)
Sure, they mourned the loss of their beautiful tree. Then, they built this bench (Now being watched over by a garden fairy).
The bench sits where the giant tree used to grow, which is a beautiful circle of life metaphor.
Next time the wind blows through the willows, this bench will tell the story.

5 thoughts on “The wind in the willow

  1. Thank you for beautiful tribute to a tree I loved to look at as the grand one of the neighborhood. I want to read wind and the willows again.

  2. It’s so true that we remember life with rose-colored glasses. It’s a blessing. Yes, makes me want to read wind and the willows again.

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