Monday, April 11, 2011

20 the comfort of big trees
Saturday April 2, 2011:
Sun streams through the windows of the North London Line train as it chugs westwards. It’s a longer way to get to Kew but feels entirely fitting somehow.
We walk through the suburban streets. Here, spring is genteelly importuning. My companion, a former homeopath and generally well-educated type, knows what all the flowers and shrubs are. I’m happily impressed.
Clearly, spring has at last spring. I breathe in deeply, calibrating the fragrences, identifying, appreciating and storing them in my memory. All of them gently lift my spirits. I purposefully allow a range of associations of contentment to attach themselves to each smell. I don’t have a care in the world today and I want to remember this day.
Bathed in warm spring sunshine, I sit beside a lakeette listening to ducks laughing.
“Oh and now there’s a lot of ducks bottoms,” informs my companion as she surveys the clump of rears exposed to the noonday sunshine. But we are here to seek the company of trees not ducks. We leave the entertaining waterfowl and their no doubt charming posteriors. .
There’s something uniquely comforting about large trees, I muse to myself as we wander amongst the majestic, hairy, rough trunked redwoods. Deep is their shelter, and grand, their stature. I find it natural to bow low in greeting as I complete my circumnavigation of each.
I’m searching for a particular tree with which to do some cleansing magic. I feel soiled with homophobia and I need to get rid of it so I can purely and open-heartedly grieve for my dead friend. We walk through the redwoods but none speaks to me. Finally, we return to the first tree we found,hardby the pond with thecommical waterfowl.
Gratefully , I enter the green shade of an English yew, its canopy shaggy and all-sheltering. This is the place. It is safe, cool and private. I lie down at the foot of the tree, my belly to the ground and let the world and all my woes, disappear.
I appear to be tangled up with the roots. As i wriggle through them, they brush my body as though to clean it.
In the shadows cast by the low fire, something sits waiting for me. Something else lies on the hearth. Silently, I tell my troubles to the shadows.
I am clean now, inside and out. I stand bare foot on the grass. Something harsh and prickly, heavy, damp and cool is being placed across my shoulders. Stiffly, it swings around me rasping against my naked body. I delicately touch the long narrow leaves of many yew branches woven together to make a living mantle.
“Something to keep the homophobia out” I hear myself say to no one in particular. I take an experimental step and the leafy mantle swishes and rustles as it swings against my body. A sweet piny perfume rises all around me. I breathe in and feel again clean both inside and outside.
Dreaming of shaggy green capes, I am startled awake by two small boys demanding to know what I am doing here and informing me that it’s out of bounds. I attempt a conversation but pretty soon give up. I get up and walk round the tree, ducking under her great jutting branches, silently thanking her for her gift.
”I need cake” I mutter to my companion. We climb out from our cool quiet sanctuary and begin to march purposefully in the direction of the cafe. I can feel that the whole world is glitteringly sunny. The air is alive with passing airplanes. I am definitely back in the here and now, but everything seems lighter and brighter.
We find a table under the trees. I’m very fond of pigeons and am happy to be sitting amongst their gentle cooing. Inevitably though, pigeons like to share the good things they have enjoyed and so of course it is my companion’s bag that they pooh on! In innocent revenge, she remarks that said pooh looks rather like the coffee cream on my cake. Momentarily I am revolted but this does not last long and soon the cake and I are united.
We walk slowly through the glowing gardens as the sun sinks behind the trees. My companion spies a rather tastefully coloured rabbit, all browns and beiges. She waxes enthusiastically about its pretty rabbit bottom as it bounces along the path in front of us. Wondering momentarily about the proclivities of my companion, I follow her out of the gardens and back through the suburban streets to the station.
London glows pinkly as we chug across it on the North London Line, according to my companion who waxes lyrically all the way home. I’m feeling warm and pleasantly tired. I think of the yew leaves mantle and feel safe.

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