The willow tree was planted the year I was born. It stands at the edge of the creek, on the southern border of our property. Though the poplars in the orchard are taller, it is the biggest tree, broad-trunked and expansive. No one believes it’s the same age as me.
I’ve been writing affirmations. It’s a work project (and a strange exercise). I’m meant to create sentences that, when spoken, instill feelings of courage, pride, calm, happiness, and fulfillment. “I am excited about the person I am becoming.” “I can find happiness anywhere I look for it.” “I belong here.”
Just now, as I stood on the porch, looking at my willow, I listened to the traffic. All day long, cars speed along the country highway in front of our house. It used to be so quiet here it almost felt deserted. The silence was an entity, a living thing. When I was little, it could make me shiver. When I was a teenager, it made me feel trapped. Now, in these years when I want it most, it’s gone.
The flat, rasping sound of tires on asphalt makes me cringe. In the midst of trees and cornfields, it confounds expectation. It steals my attention. It makes me feel trapped. I tried to find an affirmation. “I don’t mind the traffic,” I said to my willow. “I can make my own silence whenever I choose.”
But the traffic kept moving and the tree just stood. It knows me, my life and all my secrets. It knows what’s lost and what remains. Season after season, it keeps itself to itself. Though it is filled with silence it gives none away.
And I retreat, filled with noise.