That is the beautiful thing about willows. We had two huge 80-year-old weeping willows on our farm. One was taken out by a small tornado. A year or to later the other was broken off by a strong windstorm. Having seen how swamp willows will grow like nurse logs when they tip over in the swamp, I had an idea. I augured holes along the edge of a creek that borders about 1200' our property, cut off 4" diameter limbs from the fallen tree that were about 20' long and stuffed them down into the holes in the moist soil. All of them grew back immediately into good-sized, beautiful weeping willows along the creek, and ALL of them are the same original tree genetically! It's like a tree resurrection!

And that old broken off trunk when I cut through it half a year later, ran like a water faucet at the end because all the water stored in it had settled to the bottom side and came streaming out from between the bark and the wood. I hauled it to our burn pile, and it took four or five years to finish it off because of its water content, and the tall stump of original tree that remained firmly rooted now looks like a 6' diameter tree with a giant dense bush top because it all grew back, too. Something about a willow just won't stop living if it has plentiful water.

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Beautifully written. I live on 60 hilly acres my family has been on for nearly a century.For the last 25 I have been planting it to trees and prairie instead of the corn, beans and cows that my father and grandfather toiled to produce. I have the luxury, gift, privilege, obligation, whatever you wish to call it, of trying to put together an island of sustainable, lasting tree and prairie wildlife refuge in a sea of corn and beans here in Iowa. It's a vanity, an indulgence, I know, but at nearly 70 walking in the shade (barely) of oaks I planted with the help of my then 3 year old grandson 25 years ago brings me solace and joy.

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what a labor of love

what a life-giving legacy

striding those hills

will keep you young

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Thank you. This land keeps me busy when not working at my "regular" job. And it is indeed a labor of love, or maybe just determination.

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determination and faith in creation!

your oaks must be so lovely

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the inclusion of bill murrays atonal singing here is so *bleeping* funny I love it...enthusiasm trumps talent sometimes

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Well, I love this column. Trees. Hard to go wrong on this subject. Though some are a bit thorny and others a bit odiferous. The one that always comes to my mind is the Weeping Willow in my front yard. I hated this tree for years due to the drippy, sticky stuff it seemed to exude from its very pores. This until I discovered it was really the aphids that had taken quite comfy refuge in my willow. Some soapy water sprayed into its leaves and boughs did the trick. Now, the willow and I are much happier and it's a love affair now, as it should have been all along.

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Thanks Matt for touching the tree nerve. Never gets numb. Which brings to mind Joyce Kilmer's poem "Trees". Merry Christmas.

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Another fantastic column, Matt. Although I am no tree expert myself, I cherish the big sycamore tree that is the centerpiece of our front lawn. It has one of those trunks that split in two as it grew so we had to install an industrial strength wire between the two halves, which has really allowed it to continue to thrive. Even though it sometimes gets in the way of the football and baseball games I play on our lawn with my sons (and despite having to work around it with my mower too), it brings much needed shade to our little oasis and sheds huge, beautiful leaves in the fall. My other favorite is a small magnolia we have leading to our walkway. It is very temperamental and only blooms for a short period of time-- if at all, in the tough northeast climate. But our home never looks as beautiful as it does during the couple of weeks the magnolia tree's flowers shine brightly, usually right around Easter (very apropos).

The overall tree topic for your column inevitably made me think of the Rush song "The Trees" that is also from the Hemispheres album I referenced in my comment to your previous piece last week (I promise I am not a one trick pony that only talks about Rush-- but they are my favorite band). Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart said he was inspired to write this song by a cartoon that made him imagine what if trees acted like people. I have always found it to be an interesting, whimsical and poetic song in terms of the lyrics. But what I like most about "The Trees" is how it showcases the power trio's musicianship, especially during the solo section of the song where the three of them are just flat out wailing. Here is a link to the lyrics and you can find the song itself in several places by just googling it: https://www.rush.com/songs/the-trees/

Thank you for another wonderful piece of thought-provoking writing and Happy Holidays to you all!


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I am allergic to pine and even avoid it while playing baseball, but I insist on a real tree.

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Probably my favourite essay from Mr. Labash. Brings back a lot of happy childhood memories of helping my dad put up the (real) Christmas tree.

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my favorite, too!

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Matt will confirm the 3 sisters Albert My mom Martha, His grandmother Mary, and our Aunt Georgia were hell on wheels. We miss them dearly. 3 incredible women

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Matt Labash, tree-hugger extraordinaire. Whudda thunk? Most of your regular readers, I presume. Many thnx for another superb essay.

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You struck a heart string. Acres of trees create silence beyond you can’t find anywhere, any more. Before the family feud, selling of the land for cash, the 320 acres of select cut timber was the most beautiful place on earth. Soaring White Oaks, Scaley Bark Hickory Nuts, Water Oaks, Red Oaks, ancient Long Leaf Pines, Giant Red Cedars, and other hardwoods and Sweetgums created the perfect canopy for an open walking woods experience. During the Fall the acorns and nuts were so plentiful, walking along the hilly roads were almost hazardous, rolling along as you walked. A treasure forest for sure! The only disturbing sounds were wild turkeys backscratching, bark-in and nut gnawing squirrels, noisy armadillos, and late evening hoot owls. Heaven! All clear cut after the sale to the paper co. For the beloved $$$$$. The money grabbers have spent every dime by now, all the trees are planted southern pines, and heaven I plant in pots in my back yard from acorns of majestic trees when I find them. One day, I will buy and plant heaven again.

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I am sooo happy

you will be a reader of Solutions!

I launch tomorrow

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My heart goes out to you.

I have never heard of such desecration

caused by a family feud

since I read Romeo and Juliet.

But I believe you will do this

You will plant heaven again

It is your birthright and mission

from our heavenly Father.

I pray you begin it now.

Indeed, you have already begun!

with your beloved little acorns

that you plant in pots

and pray over

Please Johnnie

plant heaven again in your back yard

This is the time

Matt's essay has gone straight to your heart

as it went to all our hearts

who were blessed to read it

Dear Lord

Let us begin

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Dec 13, 2023Liked by Matt Labash

Thanks for your courteous response.

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This was a beautiful, heartening and funny read. My favorite kind! Thanks, Matt.

Nick Cage sang a fine rendition of 'A Rainy Night In Soho' at Shane McGowan's funeral:


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awash with tears

from your Christmas blessing

your tender ode to our trees

who witness our sorrows

and show us

how to stay alive

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I love trees too. A beautiful piece.

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A few observations.

Who are you? Where is my cousin Matt? What have you done with him?

Just in case this is you Matt, Betty and the Colonel did NOT pay for you to go to college. They paid to get you out of their home.

I must say I am deeply disappointed in the Colonel (while in Germany) having the blood of Pap Pap coursing thru his veins that neither had a chainsaw or an axe that was so sharp he did not use it to shave. I say to your Pap, Uncle John please forgive him.

Allow me to digress to 1339 Harris. A most wonderful home filled with Love, LaChoy Chinese in a can, Bag upon bag of Ruffles potato chips, Iron City beer in pull tab aluminum cans and the best of all the Silver limbed 2 foot Christmas tree oh and how could I forget the electric spinning wheel of Christmas colors. We would gather round the half handmade ping pong table (SERIOUSLY, Unc, hand made as professional as anyone would guess painted in evergreen green (like that reference?) with perfect white lines) in front of the faux plastic fireplace logs that had lights inside that danced as if it were real. Unc tried to get a tape recording or something similar to play to make the crackling logs appear to be real. PSA folks. If anyone other than family named Labash, Abraham, Albert find this lame, please contact your local funeral director and make the necessary arrangements. There may be no better human to have walked this earth than Pap Pap. Matt and I may come visit you much like Santa with not so-good intentions. End of PSA.

Matt these particular writings always take me back to much better times and places. even as you describe the familial memories you have and are making. I am sorry, not sorry that I take up space here with nostalgia that was 50 plus years in the making. While the trees and decorations, etc. may not have been real, the foundations, love, warmth, the pure goodness (oh how I hate you Matt for making a 60 year old man cry) were and are as real your 200 year old tree. On Christmas morning at 0420 with flashlight in hand I will say hello and Merry Christmas to John, Mary, Paul, Robbie and Martha at Mt. Lebanon Cemetery. I will thank God, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus for allowing us to be a part of the Christmas that they shared with us 365 days a year.

Matt from deep inside Thank you.

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And now I find that I am a member of the family.

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