New Year Update

January 2012 update: Welcome to a new year and some new posts! I hope to reward my readers with regular updates now that the holidays are over. Keep reading and enjoy! Please leave a comment or two, if you feel inspired ;o)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

When the Willow Whispers - Page 13

     "How much longer before it's ready?" Asked Piper.
     "Not long. Two, maybe three days." Lina replied.
     Sera piped up, "She has no idea about us or that she belongs here?"
     "She doesn't seem to." Sighed Lina. "I'm not surprised. She was very young when she crossed through. But you'd think her mother would have told her something about where she comes from by now."
     "Di left for a reason. Maybe she didn't want Amelia to drag her back." Piper suggested as she gathered herbs to add to the welcome home dinner she was planning.
     Lina was collecting flowers for center pieces. "It's Amelia's choice, not her mother's. She should have been given the option once she was an adult, not fifteen years later, when we need her."
     "She'll need a lot of training. I hope we can get her ready in time."
     "Me too, Sera. Me too." Was all that Lina could reply.

     Maia had dropped Emmy off at home an hour ago. Currently Emmy was sitting on the couch staring at a blank tv screen, with a book lying closed on the couch next to her, and unfinished knitting sitting in a basket at her feet with Othello chewing on one of the knitting needles. She had tried to keep herself busy to keep her mind off of the tree and her mother's inevitable reaction. She couldn't help but replay Dave's observations through her head. It wasn't only she who could hear the music. So it must mean that it wasn't just a coincidence. Someone else could hear it when they touched the tree, too. Emmy couldn't get her thoughts in order. It was all so impossible. She decided to take an early evening jog, to work off some of her mother's cooking and then call it an early night and try to get some sleep before work the next day.
     Oh great, work. She'd completely forgotten about the girls at work. She hoped they'd all had busy weekends and wouldn't remember Friday afternoon and her strange gift. She had too much on her mind to deal with their snickering. Othello, seeming to sense her need to get her mind off of things took the opportunity to remind her that he was hungry and in need of feeding. He jumped up in her lap and wouldn't leave her be until she got up and headed for the kitchen where the cat food was housed. She decided there was nothing she could do about things at the moment, so she fed the cat and headed out on her jog. When she came home she was too worried to eat so she skipped dinner, showered, and headed straight to bed.
     She wasn't sure she would be able to sleep, but she decided she would count sheep, or Othellos, or even willow trees if it would help. As she drifted off a noise outside suddenly woke her. Damn! I was just dozing. If I don't get back to sleep tonight, I'll never fogive whoever just woke me up... She crawled out of bed slipped on her robe and checked the clock as she headed outside. It was 1 a.m. so she had gotten some sleep after all. The cat, disturbed from his sleep, padded after her. She stepped outside into her roof garden. Othello ran ahead and started winding himself around the trunk of an aged old willow tree growing from the center of the garden. It was early morning and the light from the rising sun in the east danced through the leaves and branches gently billowing in the breeze. It was a beautiful morning. Birdsong filled the garden and Othello left the base of the tree to stalk a squirrel running across the brick path. He pounced it as it raced into a thicket of grass and a shower of butterflies flew up and fluttered to safer ground as the squirrel eluded the cat. Frustrated, the cat flopped down in the thicket and promptly pretended to fall asleep.
     Emmy laughed at her silly cat and then stared at the willow. It was beautiful. Magnificent, even, but how on earth was it growing in her garden and not taking the building down with it. She looked over the side of the low roof wall and was amazed to find huge, thick roots that had pushed their way through the windows and doors of the building and were running right through the paved street and into the earth. She turned around to run back inside and call Maia, but the doors leading into her apartment were no longer there. Her apartment wall had been replaced by a low wall with a wrought iron gate in the middle and a  green hillside beyond. She turned back to the willow and realized she was no longer standing on a roof top in the city, but in the back garden of a big estate, not much unlike her parents.
     "You made it." Came a familiar voice. "We were beginning to worry that you would never find you way through." She turned back to see the man from her office standing by the iron gate. He unlatched it and held it open for her to walk through, green eyes twinkling at her as he bowed his head to her. She started to worry about her pj's when she looked down a found that she was wearing the prettiest flowing dress she had ever seen. She was sure she should remember owning something like it, but she racked her brains and could not remember ever buying such a lovely dress. Nor could she remember changing her clothes.
     She looked up at the young man showing her so much respect. "You speak to me as if we're old friends, but I don't recall you ever saying 'hi' to me in the elevator. Or even looking my way. How is it that you are suddenly so familiar with me?"
     The young man looked taken back. "I've known you your whole life, Amelia. As you have known me." He sighed. "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that you don't remember. Rest assured, all will be resolved and you will remember me and the rest of us, once more!" He lifted his hand as if to usher her through the gate.
     Emmy walked towards the wall. "My name is Emmy, not Amelia. Where are we going?"
     "Forgive me Amelia...Emmy. We are going to a party. It's supposed to be a surprise, though, so do act surprised once we get there, won't you?"
     "I won't be acting." Came her reply. Emmy walked though the gate...
     ...and right into her living room. She turned around and looked through her french doors out to her roof garden. It was just as it was before she had gone to bed. Garden swing, fountain, flowers, vegetables, cat lying in the middle of it all staring back at her, but no willow tree. She looked down at her robe and pj's and slippers. She must have been sleep walking. She hadn't done that since she was a child. She was suddenly aware of sirens. She went back outside and looked over the garden wall at the street below. She was half relieved and half saddened to see that there were no big roots forcing their way out of the building, only fire escapes and the occasional curtain billowing out someone's window in the night breeze. At the end of her street she saw what had caused the noise that she had gotten out of bed for. Someone had wrapped their green sedan around a fire hydrant. Water was gushing into the street as a police car pulled around the corner and shut it's siren off, but left it's lights flashing. An ambulance was already there with a man sitting on the tailgate answering the EMT's questions. Emmy turned back inside, headed for her bedroom, closed the curtains against the blinding emergency vehicle lights, and slipped back into bed to fall back asleep.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

When the Willow Whispers - Page 12

     Maia happily chatted away to Dave and Diana, while Emmy pushed food around her plate in silence, at the breakfast table. Emmy's parents were excited to show off the new improvements around the grounds, and couldn't wait to see how the new willow fit into the landscape. They all finished breakfast and took tea and coffee into the family room and the women chatted the day away while Dave read the paper until the fog lifted. Finally, around one in the afternoon, the sun started to peek into the world below.
     "Looks like the fog will be gone soon." Dave smiled at them. "You girls get your coats. It'll still be pretty chilly out." Maia jumped up and quickly left the room to head upstairs. Emmy apprehensively dragged her feet and followed.
    Once the girls had closed the door to their room, Emmy hissed, "I can't believe you told them we'd stay to look at that tree! If I didn't think you cared about me, I'd almost think you were enjoying this."
     "Well, I don't mean to be ambivalent to your crisis, but I'm kind of curious to see their reaction when they see your tree." Maia pulled on her coat and shoes and put her hand out to open the door. "You know, your mom may be more supportive than you think. She may even have some answers." With that she left the room and bounced down the stairs, leaving Emmy to stare after her. Emmy quickly shoved on her shoes and gathered up her coat and followed.
     When everyone was bundled up they all trudged through the kitchen and out the back sun porch and into the back yard. Everyone's eyes were focused in the direction of the garden swing next to the brook. As they walked closer they started to see the true size of the willow.
     "Hmm. It looks bigger than I thought it was when I saw it in your truck last evening." Diana mused. "How did you girls ever manage to carry it all the way back here by yourselves?"
     Emmy released a sigh of relief for her mother's failing eyesight. "Oh, well, just good old determination, I guess."
     She caught her friends's side long glance as Maia whispered, "She's gonna notice tomorrow."
     Well, there was nothing they could do about that now. They couldn't very well tell her that she had not been mistaken, but that it was indeed bigger than she remembered the night before. She would never believe it until she saw it, so Emmy would just have to wait for the inevitable phone call tomorrow.
     "This is a beautiful addition to our garden. I can't wait to see it once it's had time to take root." Just then Dave tripped over a rock and started to fall forward. He stretched his arm out and caught himself on the trunk of the tree. Everyone held their breath and waited for the young, newly planted tree to collapse under his weight. It didn't. He gathered himself up and looked at everyone. "What? I'm fine. Why are you all looking so shocked? Lucky this tree was there to catch my fall, eh?" Distracted, he put his hand back up to touch the tree and stared a minute before pulling it away. "Yes, this will be a majestic tree to swing under in a few more years."
     Diana held Dave's hand as they took the girls on a tour of the rest of the property. They were both very proud of the new greenhouse, which was full of plant life including the herbs used to season last nights lamb. "This is beautiful, mom. So much bigger than the other one. Are you guys going to tear the other one down?"
     "No. I can never have too much green house space. I think I'll just use the old one for flowers."
     The couple took the girls to the barn to show them the latest addition, a new calf that was to replace the old heifer as their new milk cow. They stopped by the chicken coup and collected the day's eggs, and strolled down to the pond to feed the ducks and the swans some old homemade bread. Dave took the opportunity to pull Emmy aside.
     "Have you noticed anything weird about that tree of yours?" He asked.
     Emmy started. "Wh, what do you mean, Dave?"
     "I'm not sure, exactly. It just seemed to vibrate under my hand. I chalked it up to the fall, but when I rested my hand back on the trunk, after I caught myself, I thought I still felt it. I could have sworn I heard faint music, too." Dave shook his head. "Maybe I'm going senile in my old age." They joined back up with her mother and Maia. Finally it was time for them to return to the warmth of the house and for the girls to head back into the city.
     "You should come by and visit more often, Emmy. We miss you around here." Her mother enveloped her in a hug.
     "Really you should, darling. It gets lonely with just the two of us pottering around here alone all the time." Dave said as he gave her another hug.
     "Oh, I'm sure." Emmy replied with a grin. "When you two aren't busy hosting a neighborhood dinner, or popping over to another house for lunch and a chat."
     Diana ignored her daughter. "You too, Maia. You're like a second daughter to me. You're always welcome. Even if Emmy doesn't want to join you." She said giving Maia a hug, too.
     "I may take you up on that. I do love it out here." With that the girls climbed into the truck and headed back off to the city, and Emmy caught Maia up on Dave's experience with the mystery willow.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

When the Willow Whispers - Page 11

     They laughed and danced around inside a circle of ancient trees, while the fog gathered outside the circle and mist swirled about their feet. This was very different from the somber scene they made just a few days earlier.
     "She's coming! It's almost ready! She'll be here soon!" Said one.
     "How can you be sure she'll follow it? Perhaps she'll be so frightened she'll turn away before she gets to us." Worried another
     "Oh, she'll come through. She's heard the music. She'll be far to curious not to come." Confirmed the third. “If all else fails, we've sent Daniel. He'll guide her in the right direction.”
     They danced and giggled some more before falling down in fits of laughter as the fog rolled through the trees...

     Emmy and Maia had been back in their beds curled up in warm duvets and brainstorming for about forty minutes when they heard Emmy's parents stirring on the landing. They had come up with a number of mediocre plans, before deciding that they would just have to let this thing play out. Her mom was bound to notice, sooner than later, that this tree was a miracle tree. Even if the fog held out and her mom avoided that corner of the garden, how long would that last? Today? Maybe tomorrow? Three days from now that tree was going to be a fully grown, established tree in her mother's garden. There was no way Diana was not going to notice and they decided there was no logical explanation. Even the truth wasn't logical, but what else did they have?
     There was a soft knock on the door. "You girls awake in there?" Came her mother's voice through the door.
     "Yeah mom." Diana opened the door and stood in the doorway as her daughter continued. "We decided it was warmer under the covers than anywhere else in the house, so we've just been hanging out and chatting. It's a dreary morning isn't it?"
     "The mornings have been foggy for the last few days. It should lift by midday, hopefully." Her mother smiled at them. "Then I'll be able to take a look at your willow and how it looks in the back garden."
     Emmy and Maia exchanged looks. "We should probably get going before then. Want to get back to the city before traffic hits."
     "I don't think you should have much traffic on a Sunday, but you're the expert. Dave should have started the fire in the wood stove by now, if you girls want to head down to the family room in a few minutes. I'll get some breakfast on to cook before you go." With that her mother left to go downstairs, closing the door behind her.
     Maia gave Emmy a sidelong look. "You know, you can't avoid it forever. She's gonna see it, and when she notices it she's gonna call you anyway. We might as well just stay and see what she says."
     "I'll think about it. Right now I want to head down and get some tea by the fire."
     "Good plan. I'm right behind you" They grabbed robes that had been left hanging on the back of the door and padded downstairs to the family room.
     Dave was downstairs waiting for them. "G'morning girls. Sleep well? Not too cold, I hope. Sometimes I wish we'd get some central heating installed."
     "Slept like babies." Maia piped up. "Those hot water bottles are amazing inventions. Wish I'd discovered them sooner!"
     "That's good hear. Diana tells me you girls are leaving after breakfast?"
     "Yeah." Replied Emmy. "We want to try to miss the traffic into the city."
     "Sure you don't want to wait for the fog to lift? I built your mom another green house. I thought you might want to check it out before you left."
     "I'd love to see the new greenhouse." Emmy shot her friend a look. Ignoring it, Maia continued, "I'm sure we could stay a bit longer. It is Sunday after all. Shouldn't be too much traffic on a Sunday, right?"
     Dave grinned. "Excellent. It's been a while since you two have been out here. We'll take a walk around the grounds after it warms up, so you can see all the upgrades."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

When the Willow Whispers - Page 10

     As the evening wore on, tea cups were emptied and the fire died down. Sleepily, the four of them said their good nights and headed upstairs to bed. Since Emmy had moved to the city, her mother had left her room virtually the same aside from replacing Emmy's full size bed with two twin beds on opposite sides of the room. As she and Maia entered the room, they each took a bed without discussion. Maia had visited Emmy's parents many times, and always slept in the bed by the closet, while Emmy always took the bed by the window. Diana had left pajamas on the beds for each girl along with a set of towels. They changed into their pj's and took turns in the bathroom brushing their teeth and washing their faces and crawled into warm beds.
     "What's this?" Maia asked as she landed on something squishy and warm.
     Emmy who had pulled her blankets further back, already knew. "Hot water bottle. Mom put them in the beds to warm them up for us after she boiled the water for the tea."
     "Ooooh, I like it. It's so warm."
     "They're great on a cold night. And they stay warm until morning. They're great to cuddle up to. Like a warm stuffed animal! I have one at the flat that I use in the winter." Emmy switched of the lamp next to her bed. "'Night Maia"

     For a moment, when Emmy woke up the next morning she forgot about the tree and where she was. As she looked around the room from her childhood she started to panic. She had the distinct feeling that something was wrong. She began to think she had slept through her alarm and was running late for school. Her eyes swept over to Maia in the twin bed on the other side of the room and she remembered two things. One: she was an adult now, so she didn't have to worry about being late for school. Two: her and Maia had decided to spend the night here at her parents, after driving all the way out here to plant that damn willow tree. Then a third realization hit her. The willow tree. Crap! She suddenly had the overwhelming urge to get outside and see if it had taken it upon itself to grow another five years over night. She jumped out of bed and was instantly hit by the crisp morning chill that had permeated the old house through the night. She quickly grabbed the jacket she'd left by her bed and then put her shoes on to race downstairs.
     As Emmy had been noisily dashing about the room, Maia started to wake up. "Hey, what's going on? Is there a fire I should know about?" She asked, sleepily.
     "'Morning. No, there's no fire. I just want to get outside before my parents do, and see if that tree grew again."
     "Can't you just look out the window?"
     "Oh. I hadn't thought of that." Emmy pulled the curtain aside and peered out the window. "It's too foggy. I can't see more than fifteen feet at best."
     "Well, hold on. I'll get up and go with you. I'd like to see this miracle for myself!" With that Maia jumped out of her own bed, threw on her own coat and shoes and the two of them quietly ran down the stairs together.
     A blast of chill air hit them as they stepped out the backdoor. Maia wrapped her coat tighter around her. "I thought it was supposed to be spring. Why is it so cold and foggy?"
     "It gets foggy in the middle of summer out here. As for the cold, I think we're going to have a late spring. It definitely makes me want to stay curled up in my warm bed." Emmy jammed her hands into her pockets and pressed on. All of a sudden they saw it. Looming up out of the fog. "I'm not crazy. You see it too, right?"
     Maia stood for a few seconds frozen in disbelief or of cold, Emmy couldn't be sure. Then her mouth dropped open and closed a few times without any sound coming forth. Emmy let her friend get her head around things. Finally Maia spoke. "I knew you weren't crazy, but I couldn't quite believe it, either. This is amazing. Now, I'm a little frightened that maybe I'm going insane. How is this possible? Did we get the right tree? You sure your mother doesn't already have a willow somewhere else in the back yard?"
     "Nope. No other willows anywhere on the property. This is definitely the tree we planted last night. How far would you say it's grown this time?"
     "You're the garden expert. I have no idea how much it's grown, but I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to be so noticeable."
     "You'd be right about that, Maia. I'd say it's had at least another three year spurt over night. How am I going to explain this to my mother?"
     "I have no idea, but I'm getting cold again, and there's nothing more we can do out here, so lets head back inside, and we'll try to figure something out before your parents wake up."
     "Good plan. I'm cold too."
     With that, they traipsed across the backyard, back inside the marginally warmer house, and up the stairs to their beds where their hot water bottles were still warm enough to take the chill off, and brainstormed.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Every writing process is different

     I digress from my tale of Emmy's magic willow seed tonight to reflect on the writer's process. I find myself sitting here and thinking about when I started this project. I'd been wanting to create something new for a while and my intent when I opened this story was to sit down and force myself to free-write. I've always been told to do a stream of consciousness when my creativity is blocked, and see where it leads. I've also been told that to teach myself discipline in my writing, to write something every day, and if nothing comes to mind then let the stream of consciousness flow.
     So, when writing the opening to "When the Willow Whispers" I had no intention of making it into a story of any kind. I kind of figured it would end up being a bunch of gibberish. As I started to type, however, the words and ideas for Emmy's first scene just came to me from nowhere. When I had finished that first post, I knew that Emmy's tale must be told. Of course, I had no idea how it was going to unfold, just that it must. While shopping at the super market, I derived my inspiration for my seed. I  can't tell you how, as it may give away aspects of the story that are yet to be written. I can tell you that I told my mother about the willow seed and the magical story to come and she couldn't wait for me to write it. In truth, neither could I. For, while I know the gist of where Emmy is going, her journey as she gets there is as much a mystery to me as it is to everyone following along.
     I find this a strange way to write, but also very exciting. I love reading. Writing in this fashion is almost like reading another author's book. In the past I had a very clear idea of where I wanted my story to lead, what characters I would cast, their motivations and aspirations. In short, I had the entire story mapped out in my head, but only to be written. This book however, continues to take me where it wants, and opens my eyes to new possibilities and paths that it can take, every time I sit down to write. I'm enjoying the ride, so far, and I hope that you are too!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

When the Willow Whispers - Page 9

     "So, I'm not saying I believe you, or anything. Well, not entirely, but what happens if your mom comes out here to see a fully grown tree tomorrow?" Maia asked as she peered into the hole.
     "I haven't thought that far ahead yet. I figured I'd worry about it when it happens." Emmy replied, as she tried to wipe some dirt off her face, but only succeeded in spreading it around her forehead.
     The girls legs were covered in the dirt and dust from digging their hole. They were almost finished and just about to head around to the front to grab the tree. Emmy looked up at the sky. "You don't see stars like these in the city."
     Maia followed Emmy's gaze. "No. No, you don't. You were lucky to grow up out here." She set her shovel to the side. "I've been in a city all my life. I'm not sure I'd know what to do with myself out in the sticks, but I do appreciate its beauty."
    Emmy laughed, "Are you kidding? You'd go mad in 10 minutes without the trains and taxis and people honking their horns in traffic jams!"
     Maia gave Emmy the best hurt expression she could muster before breaking into giggles. "It's true! Where would I be without rude people shoving into me on the pavement, or yelling at one another in the flat next door at 2 am?" She grabbed Emmy's shovel from her and set it down next to her own. "Shall we go get the tree from the truck and finally stick it in the ground?"
     "Yep. Let's hurry. My fingers are starting to go numb." With that, the girls traipsed around the side of the house to the driveway, pulled the tree from the truck-bed, and dragged it slowly back to the hole in the corner of the backyard. Emmy grabbed the tree by its base and pulled. It came easily from the soft soil that she had loosely put into the bucket less than 24 hours ago. She indicated to Maia to hold it in the hole keeping the place where the base and the roots met just a fraction of an inch below ground level, and started piling dirt back into the hole around the root cluster. Every time she accidentally brushed a root she would hear the faint strings of music before it faded into the silence of the countryside. Sometimes she wasn't sure if it was music or just the crescendo of the crickets and frogs. When she was done she patted the earth around the tree, grabbed a bucket of water from the stream and watered the newly planted tree before she and Maia headed back into the warmth of her mother's kitchen.
     Diana was sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea and a magazine. "Just in time. Dinner was finished cooking a few minutes ago. I was just keeping it warm in the oven til you girls were ready. Tree all planted?"
     The two girls could hear the television in the living room with the new's caster announcing a cold front coming. "All planted, mom. Although, I hope the impending cold won't kill it." Emmy pondered. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if the tree did die. At least then there wouldn't be any awkward conversations.
     Maia started giggling. "Maybe we should go wash up before dinner. If I look anything like you do, then we're both a mess!"
     Emmy playfully punched her friend in the shoulder. "Be right back mom!"
     As they passed by the living room, Emmy's step-dad looked up from the tv. "Oh, high honey. Your mother told me you were out back planting a tree. It's kinda cold and dark to be gardening at this hour. Everything go ok?"
     "Hiya, Dave. Yeah. The tree's in the ground and watered. We're just washing some of the dirt off ourselves before we eat." Emmy smiled and the girls continued on to the downstairs bathroom.
     "You know", Maia nudged her friend, "Dave's kinda cute!"
     "Eww! Maia! He may be my step-dad, but he's still my 'dad'!"
     Maia shrugged. "I didn't say I wanted to jump him or anything. Just saying, for an old guy, your mom remarried well."
     "OK. I don't want to talk about this anymore. It's just getting weird. Let's get washed and have dinner. I'm starving!"
     Once everyone was washed and ready to eat, they all sat down to a family meal in the dining room. "Thanks for having us stay for dinner, Di. I enjoy family meals with you guys. I never got to have many with my own family."
     "You're welcome, Maia. There's always enough to go around. I think Dave, here, gets tired of leftovers sometimes. You two are always welcome to come visit us any weekend. I don't get to see my daughter nearly as often as I would like these days.
     "It's true. I don't get out here as often as I would like to either" Emmy thought that was possibly about to change.
     "You two sure you don't want to blow off that hair appointment tomorrow and stay over night?"
     Now that the tree was planted, Emmy was less worried about it growing out of control. She also thought that it might be a good idea to be here and see the fate of her willow first hand, in the morning. "Well, maybe we could. It would be nice to have a family tv night by the fireplace. Can we make hot cocoa and popcorn?"
     Her mother laughed. "Of course! You can make anything you like. The beds are already made up in your room, too"
     "What do you think, Maia. Wanna stay the night, and drive back to the city tomorrow? Or will staying out in the sticks too long make you a little insane?"
     "Ha. Ha. Very funny. I'd love to stay, Di. Thank you."
     When dinner was digested they all had their créme brulée and tea before piling into the living room to curl up and watch some prime time tv before bed.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

When the Willow Whispers - Page 8

     The two girls decided to take Maia's truck, opting for the ease of loading the sapling into the bed of a pickup as opposed to cramming it into the back of Emmy's two door hatchback. Once loaded, Emmy ran back upstairs to grab her purse and keys, and, with a quick pat on the head to Othello, she was out the door. Emmy's mom and step-dad lived about an hour and thirty minute's drive away. They had a big and fairly isolated place where the nearest neighbor could barely be seen from the house. The girls drove out of the city and on through the suburbs which gave way to a small bout of farms and fields before meandering up through a green forested mountain range and then down the other side. As the highway continued on, the countryside turned into soft green hills with small homesteads and meadows dotting the landscape. It was early evening by the time the girls drove up on Emmy's parents property.
     As they opened the doors to the truck the chill evening air of the cooler countryside hit them and they both cursed the fact that they hadn't thought ahead to wear warmer clothes. Just then Diana, Emmy's mother, opened the front door with two warm fleece jackets in hand and met them at the steps to the front porch. "Thought you to might be needing these." As she smiled down at the two of them starting to shiver.
     "I don't think I'll ever learn that it's always at least 10 degrees cooler out here then it is in the city." Emmy said as she took one of the fleeces from her mother.
     Maia took the other fleece on offer. "Thanks Di. You always know we'll be unprepared." She said with a smile.
     "A mother knows." She winked at them. "Come inside and we'll get you something hot to drink. Are you sure you girls don't want to stay the night and plant your tree tomorrow? You'll be losing the light soon."
     The two girls exchanged a quick glance which did not go unnoticed by Emmy's mother, but she decided not to ask. Maia started, "We'd love to, but -- "
     "We can't!" Emmy sqeaked. "I mean, I can't. I have that hair appointment, you know. I'd hate to cancel last minute. It's so rude." Emmy was terrified of the tree growing more again over night. She just wanted it in the ground as soon as possible. She would worry less about it's impossible growth spurts once it was safely planted in the solid earth.
     "Well, you certainly have time for something to warm you up before you start digging my yard up in the cold. I've already picked out a spot for you, and started softening the earth with a little water." And with that Emmy's mother headed inside leaving the door open for them to follow.
     The three women passed through the foyer with its main staircase, headed down the hallway that skirted between the family room and dining room on one side, and the den slash library and Diana's art room on the other, and landed in the kitchen, kept warm by a wood stove, and emitting the comforting smell of fresh baked bread and the scent of a home cooked diner wafting out of the oven. Diana put the kettle on for tea and brought a tin of biscuits down from the cupboard.
      Diana placed the tin on the kitchen table as the girls sat down. "So, who gave you this tree for a gift, then Emmy?"
     Emmy took a biscut from the tin. "Oh, I don't really know. There was no card. Someone just left it by my desk at work. The card probably got lost during the delivery."
     "How did the delivery guy know that he had the right person, then?"
     "I don't know. Maybe he didn't. It was already at my desk when I got back from lunch. I never saw the delivery person."
     "What an odd gift to give someone. Sounds like a mystery to me. 'The mystery of the gifted willow'." Her mother smiled at her, grabbed the whistling kettle from the stove top, and started pouring the tea.
     Trying to shift the conversation from the "mystery" willow, Maia piped up. "What is it that smells so delicious in the oven, Di?"
     "I know what it is." Emmy said. "I'd know that smell anywhere. She's got a lamb roasting in there with some rosemary and potatoes . Ah, the good old dinners from my childhood."
     "She's right." Diana replied. "Lamb, potatoes, and carrots. There's also créme brulée for desert. Sure you don't want to stay for dinner, at least?"
     Maia and Emmy exchanged looks. Since in the end it was Emmy's call, she replied, "Well, maybe we can stay for dinner. But we should really get out there and get this tree planted before we eat."
     "OK. Follow me, I'll show you the spot I've picked out."
     Diana led the way out the kitchen door, through the sun porch and into the backyard. If Emmy's friends thought that her roof garden was amazing then they should have seen her mother's back yard. It was the perfect blend of wild and tame, trees and flowers, edibles and ornamentals. There was a natural brook that ran through the back of the property with a little foot bridge leading to a small orchard and apiary. Emmy's mother took them over to one side of the yard where a garden swing sat not far from the brook. "I figured this would be a good spot here, next to the water, since willow trees are drawn to it naturally."
     "Looks perfect!" said Maia.
     "Yeah, this is a great spot mom." Both girls grabbed the shovels Emmy's mother had left nearby and started digging while her mother headed back into the warm house.