Date of Submission
Film and Electronic Arts
Project Advisor 1
Willow Woven Over is an elaboration upon an “album” I made during lockdown. This album is itself perhaps better described as a massaged compendium of various musical projects and loose ends I collected throughout my time at Bard. The film and its musical counterpart share a title (at least for now) and occupy the same world. This world is rooted in a mythological distortion of the Bluebird Song, a simple, enumerative tune for children popularized by Jean Ritchie in her 1971 album Marching Across the Green Grass and Other Game Songs. My mother often sang this song to me and my sister when we were young. Apparently it calmed us. Its story remains both metaphorically and literally indelible: I could not forget it if I tried and a bluebird feather is tattooed above my ribs. Still though, even with all the attention I’ve allocated to the song and its message, I can’t for the life of me come to grips with its ambiguity. The lyrics are as follows:
“When I was a young thing, one summer day, dreaming under my apple tree. A great flock of bluebirds, sailing through the sky, a spied my tree as they passed by. And oh! What a wonderful sight it was to see as they settled down to rest in my apple tree. Count them said my mother. How? Said I. And out of the window came this reply:
One you’ll have sadness, two you’ll have joy, three get a present, four get a boy, five receive silver, six receive gold, seven a secret that’s never been told, eight a love letter with promises three, nine means your true love’s as true as can be.
Only once in a lifetime, the old folks say, visions of bluebirds will come your way; but only if you’re dreaming, only if you’re still, only in an apple tree on a green hill. So stop all your hurryin’ and worryin’ away, and take time for dreaming on this summer’s day. And if you see the bluebirds when they come along, tell your fortune with the bluebird’s song:”
I’m not sure what the meaning is––or if there even is one. A curious complication of fatalism, maybe? The child has no control over the number of bluebirds resting in her tree and thus no control over her fortune. What’s more, she must look outside herself (to her mother, who has in turn consulted “the old folks” on this matter) in order to interpret the omen dictating her fortune. Ritchie’s position, it seems, is that free will is little more than the ability to interpret what is already set in motion, and that this interpretation is provided by others who have been required to make similar interpretations before.
The fabric of the film is the album and the album is constructed around nine tracks (one for each possible outcome of the bluebirds’ arrival in the tree). The enumerated fortunes and a few other aspects of the story are adjusted:
“When I was a young thing, one summer day, dreaming under my willow tree. A great flock of bluebirds, sailing through the sky, a spied my tree as they passed by. And oh! What a wonderful sight it was to see as they settled down to rest in my willow tree. Count them said my mother. How? Said I. And out of the window came this reply:
One’s just a stranger till two says hello, three brings desire and with four comes the fire, five is a center and to it six laughs, seven’s a secret that whispers of times passed, eight a love letter all written in blue, and nine means your true love’s as true as true is true.
Only once in a lifetime, the old folks say, visions of bluebirds will come your way; but only if you’re woven, only if you’re still, only in a willow on a blue hill. So take my hand and stop all your worryin’ and hurryin’ away, and please take time for dreaming on this rainy day. The bluebirds now are here but soon they will be gone. Count them over, love, you don’t have long, yes, tell your fortune with the bluebird song:”
Given my current read on the Bluebird song’s message, the question I intended to explore with my film was one of agency: who, if anyone, in the story has it–who is the puppeteer? I chose the tree.
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Haaksma, Luke, "Willow Woven Over" (2021). Senior Projects Spring 2021. 308.
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