Losing a Dear Friend

This week I lost a dear friend. A willow tree that once lived outside the building where I work and go to school lost its life to men with chainsaws. I do not know if it was diseased or otherwise unhealthy, but I do know I wish it had been allowed to die naturally and gracefully to honor its wisdom and beauty. It is deeply missed.

I watched as the men dismembered the tree, feeling as though I had been kicked in the stomach. This is the first time I have witnessed a tree's death in person. Seeing its body lying in pieces wrenched my heart. When I finally had the courage to walk outside to see the destruction more closely, I sensed the grief hanging in the air. The other trees were mourning the passing of their relative.

I developed a relationship with this tree, as well as the others, throughout the last year. There is a path on one side of the building at JFKU that winds by an artificial stream lined with plants. Squirrels jump and run along the grass. Ducks swim in the ponds. Robins sing from tree branches in the spring and dragonflies dance on the water. I have even seen a bittern and an egret now and then. Despite being made by humans, this habitat has considerable magic. Every morning as I walk this path, I say hello to the trees and plants. I celebrate their beauty and thank them for being there. I always feel uplifted.

My relationship with the trees deepened during July, when I awaited surgery. Each morning as I arrived at work, I asked the trees to help hold me. I asked for their support, for their love. And I got it.

So when I saw the men cutting down one of these trees that had held me so selflessly and given so much to this little landscaped environment and the people and animals who enjoy it each day, I felt deep sadness. I had to retreat to the bathroom to cry. And then I walked upstairs to seek the shoulder and hugs of a friend.

After experiencing my initial grief I knew I wanted to honor the tree in some way, so I planned a small ritual for Friday, which happened to be the day of the full harvest moon. Willows are connected to the moon in some traditions and I wanted to acknowledge that connection. Although I invited several people to join me, it turned out I started the ritual alone, which in the end felt appropriate. I first buried a double-terminated amethyst crystal in the shavings left from the pulverized stump. This was an offering of gratitude. I also placed a leaf naturally curled in a spiral on the shavings as a reminder of the cycles of life. Then I sat quietly on a rock next to where the tree had lived and held its memory in my heart.

Then my friend Michael joined me and we tried to connect with the tree's deva. I wanted to make sure the tree's death hadn't left behind an orphaned deva, because I had read in the work of Marko Pogacnik that this could happen.
It turned out the tree had no specific deva; the willow deva had watched over it. Knowing this helped me feel closure. As I stared at the mulch left behind by the tree, I knew its life would continue by enriching the soil and giving life to new plants.

Even though the tree is gone, I still feel its presence and my deep connection to its love and energy. Maybe that's because the roots of the tree remain, and therefore it is still connected to the earth and the other trees. I will not be surprised if this beautiful willow tree appears in my dreams now.

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