The Ancient Willow & the Child

 Once there was an ancient willow tree who stood on the bank of a river. She was an eccentric old thing, long abandoned by any who truly cared for her — and to be left alone for too long in such a way is to let a being go a bit feral and become rather lonely. She would tangle up the hair of passersby just so she could feel the warmth of their heads. She would whip her branches round their bodies just to feel as though she were a part of something wider, something bigger, something important.

    One day, an enormous gust of wind blew a fierce gale and the ancient willow's boughs became all tangled up in each other. The willow tree cried out, for the tangled branches caused her pain, but of the few who passed by, none tried to help her, for they were too relieved that her branches were out of their way and wouldn't mess with their hair or cause them to stumble as a result of her wild ways.

    But then, a little girl saw the willow's branches in their mess of tangles, and she climbed up the tree and untangled every single knot.

    'Why did you care for me so?' the willow asked the little girl in her croaking, barky voice, too long out of use in talking in a true way to another being.

    'My mother untangles my hair, and, as I didn't see anyone else around, you looked like you needed someone to be your mother,' the girl said with a shrug, as though the willow tree were no older than a little child.

    The willow was so touched, that she suddenly remembered what it was alike to love and to be loved. In one moment, a small child had offered her all the memories of youth. And that, the willow felt, must be rewarded with something particularly special. Gathering the child in her arms, she whispered in her ear the most ancient secret that she knew.

    The little girl smiled, and took that with her all the way until she died — and even after. And the ancient willow felt for the first time, in a long time, that she was part of something important.

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