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SING THE GREEN WILLOW
Out in the fields, the evening sun is slowing moving aside a white swath of foggy cloud. For a moment, it's as though it's rising instead of setting. Clover and cowslip muster along the dirt road and the gravel lies in the triangular patterned ridges that tractors have left behind. A magpie startles and then swoops into flight, the double white flash of its wing markings slice the air. Off in the distance, fields of rape glow in golden patches.

On one side a seemingly infinite carpet of green moves wavily over the fields all the way to Holmby church. On the other a bare, plowed expanse is ridged and flattened into rows. Stones of all sizes dot the field, they're constantly coming up. A long overgrown stone pile bisects two fields. As the road curves around the corner, it meets a ferny nettle-sided ditch, and a long row of pilar—willow trees—gnarled and twisted. Some of them have split in half and grown wide and open, leaning over the ditch, their green whippy branches sticking straight up in the air.

There's no tree as symbolic of the Scanian landscape as the knobby, round-headed white willow, cultivated year after year to create its unique appearance.The knobby tops of the willows are created by severe pruning every 3-4 years at the base of the branches. At the end of the 1600's a willow-planting campaign was begun in Sweden and endorsed by the king. The royal order was issued to all Swedish farmers to plant a specific amount of willows each year, with the intent to provide material for fences and enclosures. Unpopular at first, and enforced with controls and fines, the Swedes soon discovered many uses for these versatile trees.

In 1749 Carl Linnea advised the southern Swedes to plant them around all farm yards to help salvage Skåne. The forests had long disappeared to make way for agriculture and the tree-poor area was actually in danger of losing all of its topsoil to the wind. Willows provided shelter and protection against the sweeping winds that roust the Scanian landscape and were proof against erosion as well. They were prized for many things, not least the wood they provided and the thin bendable branches for basket-making, but also the pain- and fever-reducing properties of the bark*. They were cheap and they grew quickly, reaching stately sizes after only 20 years, and easily reproducing.

When the willow leaves were as big as mouse ears it was time to sow the wheat, and if the green willow leaves curled in the autumn, an early and hard winter was on the way. In the winter, their cropped heads and twisted trunks loom in rows along the foggy country roads. In the spring their branches resemble the upswept hair of troll dolls. Green, tufted, whippy willows: Spring has come to Sweden and made itself at home.



*willow is the source of salicylic acid from which we get aspirin
 curious
mood: curious
music: Joan Armatrading—Willow


Comments

Thankyou for sharing the mood. What a lovely post. You write really descriptively with a lot of feeling for the landscape. I have a beautiful, peaceful picture in my mind (which is somewhat strange because L-G has a Roman Polanski film playing in the background!)

You're welcome :) I'm glad that the mood came across so well, despite the Polanski!

"Willow trees actually uproot themselves at night and stalk muttering behind unwary travelers" - from the book Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee.

If you happen to get a headache from too much tree talk, just take a couple of aspirin. ;)
I enjoyed your lovely post and pic! It reminds me it's been a while since I last laid eyes on a certain statue of some plant guy at Botanic Gardens...

Re the quote: I believe it! :) Thank you and go out and hug a tree!

You really are a VERY good writer :)

Thank you, that was sweet! :)

Lovely. And did you know my surname can mean willow? Of course, it can also mean archer, but I prefer the willow definition.

I hadn't thought about it, but yes, I knew the translation. Having the H in it doesn't make it mean something else? Did you know that MY last name means Oak? :D

That I knew, so maybe that makes some kind of forestry bond between us?

and let's not forget the north stream that flows through that forest :)

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