Friday, February 29, 2008

The Ash in the Pine Wood – North Norfolk

Wednesday February 20, 2008:

The symmetrical and elegant ash, the lady of the woods stands gently on the earth, her feet deeply rooted in the ground. Bare and naked until spring has arrived, when all other trees are furled in green, at last her leaves come feathery and beautiful. She is the world tree, standing between heaven and earth. She is the serpent coiling from her roots, the symbol of the goddess and of lightening. She is strength in rootedness her elegant balance the link between the inner and outer worlds.

I walked between pine trees pushing skywards like temple columns soaring up into an arched green roof. My feet padded on the soft forest floor, every sound around me amplified, bounced and returned from whence it came.

In my dreams I had climbed the unclimbable straight trunks and swung across from tree to tree whilst the faithful goat waited below. Always, a hairy green paw would reach out for me; clasp me in a rough resinous embrace and the great green bear and I would lurch across the forest, our every footfall shaking the trees to their very roots, the birds falling silent in awe to watch our progress.

Today, the brisk Norfolk wind poked inquisitive fingers between the slim trees. My companion (the owner of the wood) had led me past her tipi, her little rough palace of magnificence (a half finished straw bail hut) into the little clearing that would eventually be her medicine wheel. Here, encircled by rowans, watched by the dark prickly holly, I sat down against a slender ash.

My gentle little egg rattles swished softly. I sat, wrapped in warm blankets, and waited, hardly daring to breathe.

Against my back, the slender trunk of the ash tree moves. She begins to rock me softly. I lean back into her embrace and allow her slowly to dance me.

I walk in the forest. Taller now than the trees, I reach up to hold the white dome of the sky, like a huge pale upturned bowl over their tops. Smaller again, standing on the soft dry floor, I see her snake-like, elegant, smoothe, pale and beautiful, watching me, inviting me to come close and dance with her again.

At length she grows still. I lean against her firmness, reach out and touch her smoothe bark. I feel rather than hear something moving to my right. The thin February wind brings a deep musty odour, mixed with the resinous pine. I turn towards the place and bow.

“Thonk-thonk, thonk-thonk, thonk-thonk” A damp drum heart beat echoes through the wood. My companion’s feet tread quietly through the dead bracken as she approaches.

I rise, reach out to caress the beautiful tree. Tenderly, I wrap a piece of green wool around a slender outstretched limb. Bowing my thanks, I leave her to her quiet circle of rowans and holly.

Later, having walked through the woods, we take branches and beat a tattoo on the soft ground, calling protection from the deer who wander the woods and the stag god to protect the place from those who would invade and spoil its soft green peace. The pine bough I hold is branched like antlers, smooth beneath its rough bark. I stroke it with tender fingers in gratitude and love for the great pine trees all around us and the deer that walk on the soft forest floor.

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