The old Willow at last took a breath again, allowed the tenseness of his limbs to release, unclench the roots that drove so far down into the life-giving soil around him. The storm had passed and again he was still standing. There had been times during this maelstrom where he had been ready to give up, let loose the hold he had on the land, the wind had been that strong and buffeted him for so long. His roots had grown weary of gripping; his branches ached from fighting the sway. His leaves were stripped; he was laid open, bare and vulnerable to the eyes of the Sun and Moon. He was tired, he hurt inside, he wished for a gust just strong enough to topple him. “Then”, he thought, “at least I could sleep, the pain would go away and the night would at last descend quietly over me.”
But in contrast to its slow gradual development, the storm ceased. That last night was long and difficult and the new morning still found him suffering. Finally, in the middle of the day with one last puff, it gave up and the Sun shone brightly again. The birds began their chirping song high up in his branches and stillness settled over the meadow. He looked around him; yes he was still here, still alive and doing well. He tested his roots, gave them a stretch down into the healthy rich soil that supported him. He was a little surprised to see how firm he stood. He was a little surprised, too, that he had doubted his root system; he was well grounded. His weathered trunk, though sore, tight and anxious, was still healthy too, storing energy and gaining strength in his heart.
His gaze fell suddenly as he remembered his little friend the Orchid. Surely she was gone now. Surely that kind of crisis, the severity of the storm, the crying of the winds, all the tears that fell, surely there was no way she would still be around to share with him the chaos that he had barely endured. Such a delicate flower could not possibly abide that kind of despair. Yet even though it would cause him pain he had to look, to see her gone from him forever. He would be shattered but he knew he had to see, where she had stood, where she had been forced from him by the rage of the turmoil. He would understand why she had gone.
He looked, and she was still there, smiling at him, her beautiful face shining radiantly in the new fresh sunlight. He went to ask her, “But how…?”
She simply smiled and said, “Dear Willow, you are strong, you can be wise, yet sometimes your foolishness exceeds your height! You are my dear friend so I will tell you this: you are not as strong as you think, not yet. Go gently, grow gently, there’s plenty of time to grow. Don’t reach as high as where you don’t belong. The storms will buffet and bruise if you try to be something you’re not. Look at me, I’m an orchid, I love being an orchid and I will always be an orchid. This is where I belong, gazing out over the River, making the world a better place for the souls that float past me and see the beauty that I am a part of. I am happy and I love life. Please join me and rest with me in this wonderful place.”
The Willow was overjoyed to see his friend still next to him, and replied, “Oh beautiful Orchid, you have shown me so much and helped me to grow, and again I learn from you. In your wisdom and patience I see I am a willow and I have a life to follow. Not yours, not the Rivers, but my own. And this is where I belong, being a willow, strong and supportive to those who travel down the River. And yes, I do love being a willow for I cannot change what I am meant to be. I cannot be an orchid any more than I can be a river.”
“I would love you to stay beside me,” said the little Orchid quietly. “You are important to me. You have skills I lack just as my skills are necessary to your growth. Anyway, I love you.”
“I love you too, little Orchid,” he replied. “I understand now who I am. I won’t be going anywhere far from you. I will share this riverbank with you, each of us being what we need to be, and growing as we need to grow. A willow doesn’t need to be an orchid to show beauty and wonder to a tired world, but having an orchid as a friend is a truly wonderful thing.”
©copyright Nick Meadows 2007