Why the willows weep

“I hate this weather!” grumbled Swain the black swan, as he and Dazel the duck, waddled to the Aviary School. The cold, dry wind blew in their face and the falling leaves crackled under their webbed feet.

“There’s something interesting about every weather,” remarked Dazel in her traditional cheery voice.

“But what’s to like about autumn?” snapped Swain. “On one hand the balmy summer months are ending and winter is creeping in swiftly. Then the falling and drying of these leaves is so depressing.”

“It’s quite a colourful season…the oranges, yellows and reds of the falling leaves. The falling is necessary because they will be replaced by fresh green ones,” quipped Dazel.

Just then, they reached the Aviary School and their conversation was cut short as they rushed in to join the morning assembly.

“There is something interesting planned for tomorrow,” said Kia the kingfisher, their Geography teacher, in their first lesson. They loved his lessons as he always took them to see fascinating landforms and strange places in D’Land. “There is a field trip to see the Weeping Willows,” he continued.

“The Weeping Willows!” exclaimed Dazel as she and Swain walked back home after school. “I’ve seen them. They are really quite a sight, so tall yet their leaves and branches droop morosely. It’s fascinating and eerie too.”

The next day was an anticipated one for Dazel’s class. The birds chattered away as they set off to their destination led by Kia. Soon, they made it to a spectacular waterfall near the Northern Mountains. Pointing to the area where the water fell from a height of 20 feet, Kia explained to his excited students, “This is a plunge pool; also called a waterfall lake. It is a depression at the base of a waterfall created by the erosional force of falling water and rocks.”

He then pointed to the waterfall, “This waterfall is called a Fan Waterfall — that is because its crest width is one third or less of its base width. The point at the top of a waterfall where the stream first begins its descent is called the crest.” Kia explained.

“Can someone tell me what the ‘face’ of the waterfall is?” he quizzed.

Immediately, Candy the canary’s wing shot up, “The vertical surface of a waterfall between its crest and its base is the ‘face’ of the fall,” she shared.

“Excellent!” smiled Kia. Now let’s proceed to the Weeping Willows.“ The kingfisher flew to the opposite bank of the plunge pool. A curtain of tall trees in light yellow shades swayed gently in the icy breeze. Their rounded, drooping branches gave the impression of them bowing. “These are the Weeping Willows,” Kia said. He then bowed to the curtain of trees. “Thank you for having us here,” Kia addressed the trees.

In response the trees shuddered. There was an eerie silence punctuated only by the sound of the water falling behind them and the spooky whistling of the breeze through the falling leaves.

“Why are they called Weeping Willows?” Rita the robin whispered.

“It’s because the drooping shape of the branches makes them appear to weep and mourn,” Kia explained. “It is autumn and shedding of leaves of the willows is a fascinating sight. Soon their branches will be bare. Also, the bark of these trees is very beneficial. It has salicylic acid which reduces pain when consumed in the right quantity. We will surely take samples of the bark. The branches of these trees are used to make excellent brooms, whistles and even flutes.”

The birds spent a fascinating day exploring the willows and watching the gentle fall of yellow-hued leaves. But by evening the clouds began to darken. The wind whipped faster. The birds shuddered and huddled under the willows.

Kia frowned. “I think flying back to the Aviary School isn’t a very good idea. It’s a windstorm.”

Dazel helped Kia gather all the birds under the shade of the willows. “I’m afraid we must stay the night,” Kia announced as they watched the orange sun set below the range of the Northern Mountains.

There were a few bushes of wild berries growing near the falls, Dazel and a few other birds went to collect them for their mates to feed on for dinner. They lit a bonfire using the lean branches of the Weeping Willows. As the fire crackled and hissed, the birds tried to warm themselves.

“What’s that sound?” whispered Candy the canary. “It sounds like someone wailing…”

All the birds listened carefully. Sure enough there was an unmistakable sound of moaning and wailing. The birds huddled closer trying to protect themselves from the wind but the truth of the matter was that they were petrified.

Kia tried to hum a lullaby to cajole them to sleep. “It’s merely the sound of wind whipping through the trees and the falling of water,” the kingfisher consoled them. But he didn’t sound convincing.

The sounds continued and in the pitch-black darkness of the night, the birds were alarmed. Night dragged on for eternity and finally when the sun rose, the birds were eager to return home.

“Let’s fly back to school,” insisted Rita the robin.

“Yes, yes,” all the tired birds agreed in unison.

“Yes, the storm has died down and everyone must be extremely concerned about us,” Kia agreed. The birds flew towards Aviary School without a backward glance at the willows and the waterfall.

Wiz Rooster and a flock of worried parents were waiting at the Aviary School gates. “Oh Kia! We were so worried,” the usually calm rooster greeted the returning birds. As the exhausted birds were taken back home, Dazel and Swain also flew towards their pond.

“It was such a spooky experience,” Swain said with a shudder. “I don’t think I will ever forget the wailing sounds of the willows.”

“But Kia said it was the wind blowing in the trees,” Dazel tried to argue. But she too wasn’t convinced.

“I guess they don’t call them the Weeping Willows for no reason,” Swain replied. “Maybe there’s a mystery we don’t know about.”

“Yes, there is,” came the voice of Grandfather Frog from one of the lily pads floating on the pond.

“Legend in D’Land has it that a pair of lovebirds was hunted under the willows — ever since, the willows have wept for these innocent birds,” the frog revealed sadly.

As Dazel drifted off to sleep that evening, she dreamt fitfully about a pair of birds under the Weeping Willows.

The Adventures of D'Land
Animated Series

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