Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rest in peace dear hornbeam

Tuesday February 17, 2009:

11:31 am

I've just "undressed" my lovely hornbeam tree. I've removed the alter at its feet, the Samhain ancestor walk ribbon around its girth, the green man sconce from its chest and the cluster of bells from high up in its branches (don't know how I got them up there, I must have climbed up!). I've laid my hand on the flat of its flank and said "goodbye".

The tree surgeon stands, chain-saw in hand as I divest the hornbeam of its sacred trappings. I don’t dare even whisper to it.

In my mind, I say “I love you, I’m sorry, please go now. Goodbye dear tree and thank you for being in my life.”

The tree surgeon shuffles awkwardly as I bite my lip. I wish he’d go away and leave me with my tree, but he’s impatient to get the job done.

“I will not cry, I must not cry,” I vow to myself fiercely, my fingers failing to undo the determinedly tight knot in the Samhain ribbon. One by one, I hand the items to my gardener, tersely instructing her where to place them. Gently, I stroke the leaves one more time, don’t dare to embrace the tree although I tell it silently that I want to. I lay the flat of my hand on its ivy-clad trunk one more time and in my mind whisper, “Now go, dear tree, go. Blessed be, hail and farewell”

Head down, my face hot with the effort of not crying, I stomp back in doors and firmly close away the murdering world.

11:50 am
Chain saws are whining and the poor tree’s top most branches are hissing and bumping as they are dragged across the garden, sounding every bit like a large dead body might when being hauled off for summary disposal. I imagine their sighing swishing, a whispered protest, their version of kicking and screaming. I want to kick and scream on their behalf, but of course, I don’t. I try not to think murderous thoughts about the tree surgeons, the neighbours, the surveyors.

And now, the air is filled with the crunching and grinding of the pulping machine as it chomps its way through the twigs and small branches I've allowed them to take. I can't stand it! When will it be over. I am called outside to supervise the size of logs and branches I want to keep. I touch the dear tree’s dismembered body and inside, I weep.

The tree’s crime? It was too big for this garden or so the surveyors said. Its robustness caused the cracks in next door’s extension. The tree officer didn’t agree with this but felt that the tree did not merit a protection order, being surrounded by other trees and being only a humble hornbeam. But I know that the London clay, swelling with the rain and cracking with the sun has shifted the ground upon which many houses have been built. This is what happens when one builds on heavy clay and has extremes of wet and heat. Firm structures that don’t bend and move, crack and eventually they fall down.

1:30 pm
I help pile up the pieces of trunk around the place where the tree was. The tree surgeons have finished and are gone. The tree, cut almost to the ground lies amongst the scattered ivy, quiet and desolate. We pile up the trunks, the big fat branches, make a temporary cairn around the place where the tree was. I pick up a small fat piece of trunk, cradle it in my arms, and rest my cheek against its rough bark before laying it tenderly amongst the others.

One day soon, something beautiful will rise from this felling today. I picture a memorial, a pile of balanced and fixed trunks and branches. Ledges for the birds to sit on, places to leave offerings. Perhaps there’ll be an archway of some kind, a doorway into that other world. Soon, I will ask those who love trees and the goddess and those who love me or just love making things in and out of nature, to come and help me make something by which to remember the dear hornbeam. Together we will make something that will evolve as the years go on, hosting wildlife, harbouring the birds, a place for the folk to dance and for me to dream beside.

Rest in peace dear hornbeam.


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