The Legend of Willowsong and Oakheart
By Jo Anzalone
(written when I was a teenager)
(One day as I was walking along the stream that ran through our farm in SC, I came
upon a wide and sandy area on its banks with two trees of different species twined so
closely together you could hardly tell where one left off and the other began. As I
stood there and looked at them, this Indian legend came to me:)
Come with me, little one, and let us descend from the hills into the deep valley
wherein the Silver Stream of Singing Waters ripples forever past. We shall walk
among the yellow flowers and sit upon the tender grasses, and I shall tell you of
Willowsong and Oakheart and how they came to live beside the Silver Stream.
In the dawn of days when these great-hearted lords of the forest were yet saplings
to be swayed by the gentlest of new-spawned breezes, did Willowsong and Oakheart
dwell upon this land. They were as supple arrows placed within the bow of life...
trembling with the knowledge that the strong hands of fate had grasped that bow.
Even now the cord was beginning its stretch to loose them into the sky. For the path
of Oakheart was the path into the far and high wilderness in the test of manhood. And
the path of Willowsong was the path of silent courage and patience in the face of his
Spring was being born upon the land as they took their parting, and this was a hard
thing for their hearts to bear. Every part of the world seemed in love with every other
part, and the whole vast sky bent low to kiss one tiny snow-white blossom. The eyes
of Willowsong drank long of the sight of Oakheart, whose arms encircled her in all
their tender strength. They stood beside the Silver Stream of Singing Waters and
pledged that again would they so stand in the birth of spring one year ahead.
The moon had not yet come to fullness five times before a terrible sickness fell
upon the teepee of Willowsong. With the hand of death heavy upon her, Willowsong
dragged her body to the forest and lay beside the Silver Stream, listening to the waters
singing in the night. She sighed deeply, remembering her pledge, and sorrow was upon
her heart as she cried, "Would that I might greet him here!" Soon the pinkness of
dawn rested on her brow, but no longer did she hear the singing of the waters, nor feel
the long leaves of silken fern falling softly above her.
Oakheart, high in the craggy dwelling place of eagles, knew with the spirit's knowing
that his beloved would not be waiting for him when spring was born again upon the land.
In the greatness of his sorrow, he was heedless of his steps and did not see the small stone
loose upon the narrow path that would cast him down the cliff. His cry was not of fear or
pain, but from the center of his soul, "Oh, my beloved, yet would I meet thee there when
spring is born!"
An eagle, with the glint of golden sun upon his wings, swooped low above the rock that
had received the body of Oakheart, but saw him not. Upon the ledge was but a single
acorn, reposing within a small crevice. Taking it within his beak, the golden eagle climbed toward the sun, his strong wings full of wind, his vision full of sky. On he flew above the
forest, above the hills with their waterfalls and the plains with their buffalo. Then from
his great height he opened his beak, letting the acorn fall through the sweep of cloud
and sunlight and drop upon the bank of the Silver Stream of Singing Waters.
Again was spring born upon the land. The flowers, timid at first, half hid themselves
among the grasses. Gaining courage from the coming of butterflies and birdsong, they
soon cast off their shyness and stood proudly in the sunshine. The Silver Stream, freed
from winter ice, sang her love songs to the sky, and the grass hugged the meadow in joy.
From beneath the ferns at water's edge, a tiny willow sprout came forth. Did it seem to
look hopefully about, or was that only the wind making it nod? Did it sigh, or was that
the rustle of its two leaves? Nearby, but unseen, life stirred within an acorn and struggled through the sod. Soon, not two inches from the swiftly-growing willow sprout, a tiny oak
tree came into being. So close were they their roots entwined and likewise their supple
branches. The rustle of their leaves together was as a sigh of bliss and contentment. And
if you will but look a little way around the bend, my child, you will see a giant and majestic
oak with a willow so closely bound to it they seem as one tree. And thus it was that
Willowsong and Oakheart fulfilled their pledge and stood together in the birth of spring
beside the Silver Stream of Singing Waters.