I was thinking about how willow is the source of aspirin, and about willow whistles, and the phrase "wearing the willow" as an old-fashioned euphemism for mourning. In vain, I tried to remember the name for the maiden goddess associated with willow.
We reached the far end of our walk and then returned over the same stretch of road. Again with the willow branches.
The tree –– what I have always called a "river willow" –– is a big, brittle production with deeply cracked bark and long leaves. It's a tree that grows along the shores of the big lakes as well as on the mucky, marshy corners of our fields.
Both of us dragged our feet, idly pushing a little drift of bare willow branches as we walked.
A twig dropped, and then another. We looked up into the bare branches of the river willow.
"I thought it was from a big truck," I said, not bothering to explain farther. In Tampa, it's a neighborhood hazard: delivery trucks often knock branches down from the overhanging oaks.
"Not many of them around here," he answered, referring to the trucks, not the oaks. Unarguable fact. I'd seen a yellow Schwann's truck on the Would-Be farm's nearest road. Once.
We pondered the underparts of the continent's second-largest rodent for a long, companionable moment. The porcupine never stopped grazing, using a clawed forepaw to direct a twig toward his mouth. A bite or two later and the twig separated from its branch and slipped through the animal's paws.
Seemed like a waste –– all those pieces of tree littered about –– but then willows will easily grow from a downed branch. Maybe it was a favor the porcupine was doing for the tree. He was eating not just for himself in the springtime moment, he was eating for his future and his progeny, and for the future of willow trees.