Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Father Hornbeam

Monday February 16, 2009:

I stand beside the hornbeam in my garden on its penultimate day as a living tree and cast a circle. For some time, I’ve been aware of a doorway into another world underneath one of its great branches. This morning, I decide to allow myself to explore it, with the set intention of connecting with the spirit of the tree and finding out what I need to do to release it when the tree is felled tomorrow.

I am on the crest of a hill. All around me, in monochrome with an ashen grey emphasis roll hills, sweeping down to a dark dead-looking great city by a snaking still river. All is quiet. There is no sign of life. Dread creeps across my skin in cold Goosebumps and I feel heavy and sad.

The tarmac path is straight, running down the hill towards the dead city. I walk slowly down, noticing that the grass on the hillside looks lifeless and grey. The leaden sky presses down upon me. I walk on.

Nothing changes, nothing moves. I am the only sign of life on the hill side. I plod on towards the city which doesn’t seem to be getting any nearer.

A rattling croak breaks the silence. I look up to see big black crows circling and cawing urgently to each other. What can they be searching for in this dead landscape? They circle above me as I walk on.

I’m lost in a slough of deep depression. I plod heavily on.

Now I walk through a burnt out forest, the tree stumps blackened and jagged, the grass lumpy like the scattered rough ash of a human cremation. What terrible cataclysm happened to cause this? I think momentarily of miles of burnt forest in the Australian bush. I walk on.

And as I walk, I begin to notice a change. Amongst the scattered ashes, the harshly pointing burnt stumps, one or two leaves are unfurling. Here and there, a brave bud pushes through. As I walk, the landscape around me greens; changes and the trees grow up all around me. In time, I am walking through a fertile forest and the air is populated with birdsong. Spring perfumes every breath I take. Small scurrying in the undergrowth signals that I am not alone. I walk on, placing my feet carefully yet jauntily on the path that winds between the trees.

I push through a leafy vale into a woodland clearing. In its centre stands a great tree. I can tell from its bark and its sturdy shape that it is a hornbeam. Before it, another stout hornbeam lies, as though in prostration, although in fact it has been felled. I touch it gently then step over it and sit down, facing the live tree.

I gaze at the big tree in front of me. Its strong trunk rises up into the sky. Its great branches spread out protectively overhead, their leaves providing a thick sheltering canopy. I look down at the roots and see, amongst the grasses and brambles, the spiralling ivy, small busy creatures scuttling and scurrying. This tree hosts a whole environment, a rich pallet of colours, a vibrant ecology of fora and flora.

I hang my head and weep for the tree in my garden. I feel this hornbeam’s paternalistic protective energy hold me, as though I were a small and distressed child.

“Father hornbeam”, I say, between sobs, the hornbeam in my garden is condemned. It has to come down. How shall I help its spirit leave?”

I sit quietly thinking, watching the still silent tree in front of me. I remember, my tree is decorated with bells, a green man sconce and a silk ribbon from the Samhain ancestor walk. At its feet stands a simple alter. When I take these from the tree, then it will be time for the spirit to leave. I shall “undress” the tree only when the tree surgeons are ready to cut it. Until then, let its spirit live happily on, gracing my garden with its joyfulness.

I rise to my feet, bow and thank the father hornbeam for his wisdom and return to my garden.


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