The Story of My Name
A week or so later, I was watching the excavator prepare the space for her new house. I had thought someone would cut down the willow tree with a chain saw, but not so. When he got to the tree, he grabbed it with his earth moving machine, ripped it from the earth, and tossed it to the ground. Watching that almost broke my heart! I was devastated by how poorly that willow tree was treated.
I shared my experience with a circle of women later that week. They were saddened, yet thrilled with my story. They said the willow tree was magic, and I should go to the tree, and speak with it, and ask it if I could harvest pieces of it to share with the women in my circle. I had always been into nature and spiritual connection, but still thought that was a little weird. But, I agreed and went to talk with willow.
When I went to the willow tree, and started looking at it closely, I noticed several things that were rather surprising. First, its branches were almost completely straight and not bent as I had thought they would be. After asking and receiving permission, I was able to cut eight perfectly straight walking staffs, one for myself and each woman in the circle. Then, I saw the main root of the tree. It was bright, blood red, sparking in the sun from the minerals clinging to it. And it looked like a person, standing, complete with arms, legs, and an umbilical cord. After asking again, I cut it from the tree to share it with the circle of women too.
When I presented these gifts from the willow tree to the circle of women, my name began to change. In that circle, I became Willow Walking, and I was told to go and learn as much about the willow tree as I could. As I did, I realized I wasn’t worthy of the name Willow, and asked that I be called Walks with Willow instead. I had much to learn before I could assume the name of such a wonderfully magical, healing tree as the willow.
As I studied the willow tree, I learned that its flower essence helps to heal resentments. I started taking that flower essence to see what would happen, and it was liberating, greatly shifting my attitude toward my neighbor. I learned that its bark has long been used to relieve pain…it is the main ingredient in aspirin. I also learned that the willow tree has long been used to help relieve grief and sooth sadness. It is flexible yet strong, and is well known to hold soils together. It has many, many other gifts, and I aspire to be as willow like as I can in my everyday life now.
On a trip to Oregon, for my very first Jin Shin Jyutsu healing arts class, I was sitting in a silent, natural hot tub looking over a river in nothing more than my birth suit at dusk. The pool was canopied by a willow tree. As I sat in the quiet of that evening alone, I heard a voice as plain as day tell me I needed to change my name to Willow Walker. It was such a clear message, I looked around to see if anyone was there, but found it was just me and the willow tree. When I got to my class, I wrote Willow on my name tag, and from there it took.
I started using Willow as a nickname from that point forward, and in 2013, I legally, changed my name to Willow Walker. I never thought I would change my name, and never wanted to, until willow came along and changed my life. And now, it is hard to imagine myself with any other name, and I am very grateful for the learning and experiences the willow tree has taught and continues to teach me every day.
When I was born, my name was Janice A. Sitton. But in the fall of 2011, the willow tree (Salix) claimed me for its own. Here is the story of how this happened.
For years, there was a nice, big field next to my home in Woodfin, NC with three willow trees. Over the years, two of the trees had died, as there wasn’t enough water on that steep bank to support them. But the one willow tree lived on. That property came up for sale in 2011, and I made an offer on it, but was refused. I had dreamed of planting an edible landscape beside my home, and selling fruit at a walk-up fruit stand on the side of the road. But instead, the property sold to another woman for the same price, who then began to build a home 10 feet off my property line.
Gone was the quiet privacy I had long enjoyed at my home. I felt angry, and resented my new neighbor for the loss, and the disturbance her close proximity would cause in my life. She knew I used wood for heat, and asked me if I wanted to cut down the willow tree for firewood. At first, I said yes. But when I asked my Dad, he said that willow makes no heat when burned because it is a water tree. It would do me no good as firewood. Given that, I declined the opportunity to help my neighbor, and told her to take care of the willow tree herself.