Tag Archives: trees

The Lady of the Woods

 

birch.lady

We are always talking about looking and seeing, here at Will Turnstone. When we took Abel out to the woods yesterday we found this invitation to look at Betula, the Lady of the Woods. Isn’t she lovely? Find one of her sisters near you and enjoy the sight.

Here is something I’ve been saving till the right picture turned up. This one is good enough to accompany this passage from Nan Shepherd’sThe Living Mountain’. A writer may reveal what the reader more than half knows, awakening joyful recognition in her audience.  I was reading to learn about the Scottish Highlands, but I discovered something all-but known about the birch I see as I open the curtains or come home: the birch. Here is Shepherd on p53:

Birch … that grows on the lower mountain slopes, needs rain to release its odour. It is a scent with body to it, fruity like old brandy, and on a wet warm day, one can be as good as drunk with it. Acting through the sensory nerves, it confuses the higher centres; one is excited, with no cause that the wit can define.

It’s always good to return home even from a quick walk to the shops. There is magic in fingering the keys as I approach under the lime trees – trees that may not flourish on Cairngorm but here share their bee-sung, scented glory every summer. Birch is wind-pollinated, needing no nectar, but its fresh-air scent, which I barely register even in wet weather, is part of coming home. I never realised till Nan Shepherd told me! And the blackbirds sing louder in the rain.

We occasionally berate the birch for its scattered seedlings, which occupy any bare earth and even take root in garden walls. As Rome fell away from Britain no-one removed the young trees, and the towns crumbled.

Not far from here at the derelict mine, a birch forest has sprung up on the spoil. Silver birch, I called it as a child – but it is pure gold in Autumn.

Do seek out Nan Shepherd’s book and see, hear, smell, feel with her.

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After the rain

2.00 p.m.: it was the summer storm we’d been waiting for, though not predicted by this morning’s weather forecast. A good 25mm, 1” of drain-blocking rain in an hour. Before I tackled that little job (and I would have waited for Abel, had I known he was almost on the doorstep) I looked out of the back door.

The rain had ceased. Movement in the apricot tree: a song thrush decided it was time to dry herself off. An all over shake; spreading first the left wing, then the right, preening each with her bill; fanning the tail and giving that a good shake, followed by a dance move no human could copy: head thrust forward and down, feathers all fluffed, then three or four undulations from head to tail. That did the job! Satisfied, she preened herself once more and flew away.

I’ve seen few thrushes in our garden over the past few years. It was an extra pleasure to witness this intimate moment in her life.

bbc.video of thrush

 

Sign of Spring

When I looked out of the window this morning, I saw that it had been raining in the night. But that can happen at any time in England. What was so spring-like about it? Simply that under  the lime tree (tilia) opposite our window was a circle of dry pavement. The leaf cover has arrived! I celebrated with a brew of lime flower tea, though using flowers picked from by the river, not from street trees! A class from the nursery school had taken great interest in my foraging last summer.

No-one to kiss.

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Winter, and I had a window seat on the train to work. Along a quarter mile or so where the rails run near the river it was plain that some trees were not infested with ivy but with mistletoe, not yet enough for a commercial harvest – unlike these trees in Oxford. Has the University or the College considered such an income stream? There was one small clump in a tree above the railway cutting, close enough to warrant a kiss – but Mrs Turnstone was five miles away in the supermarket.

Time to Stop and Stare

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We had an appointment in Canterbury city centre and were almost there when we spotted something white in the tree downstream. Stop. Stare. Stare again. It was not witches britches – air-borne plastic impaled in the branches – but a little egret, shining in the sun. Not long ago a rare visitor to Kent, now almost a familiar friend.

By the time we’d done snapping with our phones, a small crowd had gathered. I hope the sight lifted hearts a little.

 

A Promise

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We buried our friend Mrs O a few days ago. She had a good send-off, the church comfortably full. I was comforted an hour earlier, to see a rainbow, arched over her house as the rain drifted away into the North Sea. A promise that she will not perish! And the thrush and blackbird were singing.

‘Safe’ by Mary Webb.

Under a blossoming tree
Let me lie down,
With one blackbird to sing to me
In the evenings brown.
Safe from the world’s long importunity –
The endless talk, the critical, sly stare,
The trifling social days – and unaware
Of all the bitter thoughts they have of me,
Low in the grass, deep in the daisies,
I shall sleep sound, safe from their blames and praises.

That is one of Mrs Turnstone’s favourite poems.

This particular rainbow over Mrs O’s house occurred a few years ago.

 

STRANGE SEASON – III

 

We’ve had the first significant frosts this week, bringing red sunrise and sunset and another hint of autumn. I walked down Abbot’s Hill, admiring the remaining red berries and – a welcome promise of spring every year – the lambs’ tails of the hazel beside the ditch.

But at the bottom of the hill I was startled to see a leaf dancing its way to earth. Of course I looked down, to find the path littered with hazel leaves, still green, but released from their parent tree as the low sun reached the upper branches. There were more to come, but the catkins on this tree were still tight, nowhere near ready to begin their own tango with the wind. I guess the leaves need to fall before the flowers can open.