The Willow-Oak
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

long absence.

 


     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.

 

 

 

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