21/ Garden Tree

The sloping garden outside our house is bordered by trees.  They flourish so every couple of years we have to get them lopped and trimmed.  One, a beech, has given special joy over the years.  Before we moved in twenty years ago the beech had already been regularly pollarded, and I continued the practice. Pruning and sawing off top branches.  The effect was to create a sort of natural, knobbly, aerial platform.  With the addition of a few bits of wood this became a place where the children could play, or read, or retire to when the entire world was wholly against them.

Trees bring great solace.  Gerry Adams talks about hugging trees during difficult days of the peace process in N.Ireland.  I have a great sympathy with that.  Trees endure.  The oldest known, the Great Basin bristlecone pine trees of California and Nevada are over five thousand years old. (I know.  I’ve just checked.  Marvels of the internet.) More ancient than stone henge and the Egyptian pyramids, more ancient even than New Grange when the western Sahara was still a fertile savannah.  Not sure how old our garden tree is.  Older probably than the foundation of our house.  Older certainly than the foundation of this tiny, nation state.

Different species of trees bring different atmospheres and feelings.  I love the cool, smooth bark - a fashionable grey - of our beech tree.  It’s still in full green-leaf splendour at present.  I can see it through the window bushed out at the top due to the lack of my – or anyone’s - ministrations.  Reverting.  Displaying it’s strength.  Growing Samson’s hair.  Shaking it’s roots. Preparing to quit the domesticating confines of the puny garden walls. The girth of it’s trunk is far larger than anyone's outstretched arms.

I hope to get out there soon to give it a hug.

© Benóg Brady Bates


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