The Willow Tree, and the Taming of a Mind

Dear Vogelians,

I have this image in my mind: a willow tree that has been struck by strange lightning. Now instead of the soft, green boughs bending in smooth cascades towards the ground around the strong, solid willow tree trunk, the boughs and leaves stick out at odd angles. They wave around frenetically, much like the boughs of the fabled Whomping Willow in the Harry Potter books, swamping and smashing things that come near them. They know no peace.

Image from Amino Apps

The wild willow is how my brain and all its little neuron zaps feel at the moment under the weight of the news and current crisis. There is much to think about, and very few answers, other than “have patience” and “hold on.” My thoughts are waving around wildly in my head, tethered only loosely to the reality I knew mere weeks ago. It feels difficult to conjure the peace of the moment under the weight of world struck by strange lightning, the weight of a world in upheaval and pain.

In the Harry Potter tale, there is a secret to taming the Whomping Willow. I won’t call it out exactly in case you haven’t read the books (which you should go do, they’re delightful). Basically, there is something that tames this seemingly chaotic, untameable force of nature. It’s simple and unexpected, and comes exactly when the characters most need to find it.

I think we all have access to this taming of our minds. We can’t change the weight of the very heavy world. But we can stop thinking we need to carry it. Ah, my brain calmed a little just imagining setting down the very heavy world. There, the willow boughs relax towards the strong trunk. Sometimes putting an image or name on some chaos can tame it slightly, and lead us to clarity and the way forward.


I wanted to reach out to you, the Adventurers Vogelian, and offer all I have to give in this moment: words, and love. Below are some resources I’ve found helpful in the past weeks in keeping up-to-date, mitigating anxiety, and building strength. We all have things to offer during this crisis. If you have any need for words (books, poems, songs, to calm, to excite, to inspire, to help, to fight, to soothe), or any need for someone to listen, I am here for you. Please reach out. This is no time for suffering alone. Also, if you have a story, poem, or drawing you’d like to share, please send it my way! I’d love to see or hear what you’re working on during this time.

Adventurers are best known for how they act in times of crisis and adversity. The most respected heroes – in any discipline, be it the medical field, tending to a family, or tending to one’s own mind – keep a level head, trust their gut, and step forward into what scares them. A level head is achieved through remembering what you have already overcome, and just how capable you really are. A trusted gut is formed naturally, and yours is available and talking to you whenever you need it. What scares us is currently omnipresent: whatever step you take today, it is a brave one. Whatever step, no matter how small, is necessary and courageous. With enough small steps, we will emerge on the other side.

Dear adventurers, I wish for you willow tree minds with boughs that sway calmly even in mighty winds. However, if your mind, like mine, feels zapped by strange lightning, I wish for you curiosity and perseverance. Curiosity to watch the strange world and your strange thoughts wave wildly before you and to be overwhelmed by fear. Perseverance to continue watching until the boughs of your mind relax, and clarity is born. Continue to struggle, continue to ask for help, continue to look inside yourself for guidance: you will find your way forward.

Be in touch, wisdom is never far,


Book Recommendations:
-The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison
-Becoming by Michelle Obama
-Matilda by Roald Dahl
-Bossypants by Tina Fey.

Trustworthy, non-sensational news sources:
CDC Coronavirus FAQ. A comprehensive resource for many questions you may have about covid-19. Solid coverage of big national updates. Solid coverage of international updates.
-Your local paper/your local government’s website. Staying in touch with what’s happening in your area can be helpful. SFchronicle is giving free live Bay Area and national updates.
Johns Hopkins Corona Virus Map. Aggregate data shown visually.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Trevor Noah is hosting his news/comedy show from his home, interviewing top scientists, busting Covid myths, and being funny/informative.

Emotional Support Resources:
-Skype calls with family and pals.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 1.800.273.8255. You do not need to be considering suicide to call this number. If you are in distress and need to talk, it is OK for you to call this number.

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