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The Moving Willow

October 11, 2018

In the United Kingdom, in 1979, I moved to a rented house in a town that was designated a "New Town" a new town built from scratch and absorbing four or five small villages. The New Towns Commission gave everyone a tree voucher. I used mine to purchase a Weeping Willow. I planted it out at the back of the house, near the border with a neighbour's home. Two years later, I bought a house in another area in the same town and every day that I was moving things between the houses, I looked at the Willow. How could I leave it to probably be cut down by whoever moved in? I consulted books in the library about moving trees and found out how I could move my Willow. I dug a large trench three feet out from the tree and down about three feet. Then I carefully removed soil in a circular motion until I began to see fine roots in the soil. I went down and gradually cut away the soil, supporting the tree and its roots on three planks forming a triangle. Eventually, with the help of some friends, I lifted it out onto thick sacking which I soaked with water and bound with tape. The journey by trailer was just ten minutes or so and I had a prepared hole filled with water and with compost in the bottom. I removed the sacking and dropped my Willow into the soggy ground. I had noticed that there was a spring that was running down and almost into the back door of the new house. I had positioned my Willow in that spring outlet. That Willow lived and thrived, growing to be 30 feet high and spreading out almost the same distance. I used to sit under it and just enjoy the sounds of the birds in its branches.

In 2000, a new nighbour moved into a house nearby and began to park his car under the sweeping branches of my Willow the other side of my fence. He began to complain about the tree and wanted to petition other neighbours about it. I had one of the big branches surgically removed to prevent the leaves from touching his car. That was not enough. Eventually it had to be cut down. After enjoying my tree for almost 20 years, I had to say goodbye and was left staring at a stump slowly decaying and growing fungi. It was as if an old friend had died.

I always remember it as the "moving Willow" because it made the same journey as me across town. What happened to the spring that the tree was happily drinking? Well, strangley, it suddenly burst out of the ground, a few doors away, in the front yard of the neighbour who had made me cut down my tree. 

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