I have walked miles on narrow paths
to this place in the story where I sit
encircled by the willow’s green serenity,
I gaze across the pond at a gazebo
and recognize at last it is the one
in Mother’s plate, the one she placed
above the rest, “because it tells a story.”
I know now who I am
that messengers are on their way,
the lovers plan their flight
and I need wait for nothing
but the wind to ripple willow wands
and startle words from me
like birds surprised in flight.
This is another poem by my sister Christine, from The Voice of a Writer. She wrote it as a gift for our mother on her 66th birthday. My sister Susan, my mom and I had a little discussion about the blue willow plate. Did we ever have one? If so, did Christine have it at some time? and who has it now? I thought I might have it but when I looked at our blue plate, I realized it had a hunting scene, and my husband says it definitely didn’t come from Christine. Susan remembered that as children our library did include a book called Blue Willow, which I still have…it’s on the bookshelf right in front of me. It’s a lovely story by Doris Gates, first published in 1940, with awesome soft black and white illustrations. It was a Newbury Award runner-up in 1941.
I just opened the book, read the first line, and felt a familiar shiver of delight: “Janey Larkin paused on the top step of the shack and looked down at her shadow.” I read and re-read this book when I was ten. Janey’s one treasure is a blue willow plate, and the story takes us to the moment when she faces sacrificing this one treasure to gain something even more important to her and her family.
At last week’s Festschrift celebration for my mother, Katie Funk Wiebe, Susan read this poem to the audience.
Now that I think about it, our sister Christine’s life was a series of sacrifices, handled mostly gracefully. She struggled to keep her body alive as she cultivated her ever-more lively spirit. When she was 45 years old her body finally wore out but her spirit is still zesty and with us.