Thursday, March 11, 2010


Though there is one more original song on the Sleepy Little Town album, I am sort of (well, actually more than “sort of”) emotionally spent. I’ll try to revisit the writing of the song Firstborn tomorrow, after a good night’s sleep.

For now, I’ll share with you a song few people have ever heard.

The Willow Tree was written for my daughter Kate. Not about her…but for her. Kate is my third child, the one we brought home in a Christmas stocking on Christmas Eve 1983. She was born on Winter Solstice, Dec 21st, around 8 in the evening; on the cusp of the changing of the seasons. She had a head full of lovely dark hair. My friend Janet Cox stopped by the next day to visit in the hospital. I was holding my new baby Kate and Janet commented on her dark hair as she came closer. “Oh, it looks like she had a little baby powder in her hair”, Janet reached out to brush it off. But there was no baby powder in Kate’s hair. It was…well, it was Kate’s hair! Kate has a patch of platinum hair at the crown of her head. I call it her dusting of snow, since she came the first day of winter. People think she bleaches it, but actually it was God who did that. It is part of her distinct look.

Before Kate ever talked she sang. She hummed the tunes to the lullabies I sang to her. I remember her humming herself to sleep in her car seat. Her pitch was dead-on. She came with a gift of music. She has many other gifts as well; she’s bright, she’s athletic; she’s hilariously funny; she’s tenderhearted and compassionate. She is a beautiful guitar player, and a gifted teacher. She would probably shake her head at this right now, the gifted teacher part, because she is currently teaching in a Middle School in Houston TX , on assignment for Teach for America. She is in the last half of her second year. Whew! What a job she has. I’ll just tell you that she has confiscated knives, seen dozens of kids hauled off in police cars, watched a school bus go up in flames in the school parking lot, and had three i-phones stolen. But she persists. She learned persistence early on, and it was really drummed into her character when she served a mission in Hong Kong for 18 months. She has degrees in Linguistics and International Studies and a minor in Chinese. She teaches ESL students in Houston…and there is not a single Asian in her school.

Anyway, I wrote The Willow Tree after we watched Kate perform in one of her high school musicals. She had a couple solos and duets, and her stage presence was beautiful. But that voice was what got to all of us. She has great range, and depth. I made her record this one night, against her wishes, when she was in high school. She might not be too happy I am posting it here.

The Willow Tree is a random song I just felt like writing, about a willow tree, but not really about a willow tree. It’s really about a once-upon-a-love heartache, where the singer waits under the anonymous shelter of a willow for her love to return. I’ve always been drawn to willows; all willows; the ones that caught my fishing line along the riverbanks in Idaho; and the large trailing ones that hovered over me in my pretending days. What a great place to play, under the canopy of a willow tree. I think of willows as heartbroken trees - like they tried to be strong oaks with sturdy branches aiming toward heaven, but they could not sustain the stretch. Sometimes all of us are willow-ish.

Here’s the lyric:

The Willow Tree

Sweet is the water flow
Out of the melting snow
In the heart of Spring

Green is the morning light
From the underside
Of the willow tree

Now that the warm has come
I watch her stretch her arms
As if she rises from sleeping
She may have tried it once
Holding her branches up
But they keep falling down weeping

Soon, soon you’ll come back to me
Back where you planted me
By the willow tree

And here’s Kate, when she was 17 years old, singing it. I’ve also included a couple other songs she recorded after one of our album sessions last summer. Kate sang harmony on my last two albums. If I am really, really lucky she comes home for Thanksgiving and sings in my Christmas concerts with me! Kate recorded these two songs, Baby Mine and Summertime, for her Gram’s birthday present (Gram is her biggest fan). These are one time through recordings, with no edits, and yes, that's her on the guitar, too:


  1. mother, daughter, sister, friend. thanks for sharing. you are both amazing. i know that these writings are exhausting, but i thank you again and again for sharing. you truly are a gifted wordsmith.

    and yay for kate for sticking it out. an inspiration to us all.

  2. a perfect tribute to a wonderful person. how we love kate!!!

  3. What a gorgeous voice! The song was so beautiful and so fitting for today! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Okay, here I am sitting here at my desk full of papers, just bawling!! What a remarkable gift you both share with all of us. Thank you...thank you for opening up your hearts, and for touching ours in doing so. We are so grateful for your willingness to share those gifts with us and so many others. We love you both!!

  5. Kate's voice is amazingly pure! That's my sister!