If you are of a certain age, your response to this title will be to supply the next line:-
A poem lovely as a tree!
I have just driven out with the farmer through the Dale. The snow is beginning to go but only very slowly. So slowly in fact that I can't help thinking of the old folk lore we trotted out as children:- if it is going slowly then it is surely waiting for more to fall. The difference being that in those days we didn't want it to go as we were enjoying the sledging in the field called the hills and hollows in our village - now I just want the fields to be green again and the roads to be clear so that I can enjoy getting out and actually driving (I don't do icy roads any more). But I digress.
What showed up so beautifully in the Dale was the glorious bare trees. Their black shiny trunks and branches look starkly beautiful against a white background. What would we do without them?
I remembered something about trees in Ronald Blythe's "Borderland", so when I came back into the farmhouse I looked it up.
Trees are without doubt the largest living things in the world. When you think that each one has grown from a tiny seed, and often taken a few hundred years to get to its majestic phase, one can only marvel at the spectacle.
What Blythe does in his book is to make you think at a deeper level about them. He says, for instance, that when they come into leaf in the Spring they are always young again, but that when they are bare in Winter they show their old battle scars - the broken limbs, the torn off branch scars - he cleverly likens them to wounds under the bright uniforms of old naval officers in the Napoleonic wars, which is very apt when he speaks of the oak trees and how they were felled to make the ships for Nelson's navy before the great battles at sea. He suggests that most oaks we see were planted around 1800, as their predecessors would have been felled in the great forest sweep that was made at the time. It reminded me of the iron railings which we also melted down for munitions at the start of the Second World War.
We tend to take our trees forgranted, but apart from the fact that they provide us with wood for furniture, cricket bats, logs for the fire, with their fallen branches, they also provide homes for a million small creatures and wonderful perches for our song birds.
Last Spring we were in New York State as the trees were coming into leaf and we marvelled at the sight of so many different greens and yellows - at the sight which we felt probably equalled the sight of New England in the Fall (which I must say we have not seen). But I must say that, on balance, I think I probably get more pleasure from the bare trees as they stand out in Winter. I particularly like them against a back drop of ploughed fields.
Are you a tree lover? How do you like your trees? Have you a favourite one?