willow-treeMy neighbor’s weeping willow slouches, with ominous melancholy, toward our back fence. Its branches do just that—weep—onto our yard: twigs and small slender tear-shaped leaves. It invades the airspace of my backyard, and has, on windy days, dropped large branches, oblivious to the nuisance and danger it creates. Alright, it does provide shade for the house, which is sometimes appreciated. But as the weather cools and the leaves drop in earnest, I’m not so appreciative.

One branch in particular annoys—completely dead, leafless, the grey pallor of its skeletal limbs, like finger bones reaching for the sky. It waits for the next storm to crash into my back deck, but until then does nothing, serves nothing. Provides no shade, disrupts the otherwise lovely view.

This morning, washing dishes, I looked out at the branch, my eye pulled by a flash of red against the grey. A woodpecker clung to the underside of the branch, its bright red-capped head drawing my attention. It pecked at the wood, apparently finding food within. Then a pair of cardinals flitted among the branches, stopping on the smooth, dead branch to offer a trilling song.


What appears useless or annoying is not always so. Sometimes the starkness allows a better view of the beauty we would otherwise miss.

What annoying or useless thing in your life might actually serve a purpose, even if that purpose is to provide a backdrop to the beauty you might not otherwise see?