I have always loved to be among the trees, but there have been some very special trees in my life too. I have always been an outdoors kind of person. I walked and cycled for many years among the lanes of my home and then further afield ending up climbing and scrambling in the mountains of Snowdonia. But trees have always been special.
There is something about woodland and the tracks through it that feel different to anything else I have experienced. It is magical. The sunshine filters through the leaves and moves the shadows around and changes the colours of the leaves as they move. Then there is the smell of the trees and in dense forest the smell of the moist earth.
One of my ‘special’ trees was an ancient beech tree in a small woodland around an old ironstone pit. It was originally part of a large forest but a road runs through it separating this small section from the main part of the wood. This ancient beech was quite near to the road and it was obviously loved by those who found it. The branches were strong and low enough to sit on and its roots were huge and spread over a large area. I have spent many happy hours there with others, meditating and giving Reiki attunements. It was a very special place for these kinds of things. Sadly, this tree has been cut down maybe because it was too near the road and had got dangerous.
Another tree I loved was again an ancient tree in the same forest but a few miles away. Its canopy was huge and made me feel tiny when standing under it. A photo of it was the heading photo for this blog a while back. Sadly it was also cut down, first in half and by now I suspect that it has completely gone.
But what of other trees? Some 20 years ago now, I gave money to the Woodland Trust to plant twenty small oak saplings. At that time you were given a map of the area where your trees were planted and a reference number so you could go and visit them. I did this several times and together with my friend Simon we produced a small booklet called a ‘Year in the Grove’, taking lots of photos through the seasons to see how the trees changed and adding poetry and text as well.
I have always loved the birch tree which to me always feels feminine and I call her my lady birch. The willow is another tree I love especially the weeping kind. Then there are the redwoods, the giants of trees. I am lucky to have them locally and find them wonderful to hug, their energy so replenishing. I could write more about the trees in my life but will stop here otherwise it will end up as a book. Now that’s an idea!
Some years ago I paid for a small grove of trees, twenty I think, to be planted in a nearby wood by the Woodland Trust. Those trees are now much bigger and I love to see how they have grown. Trees are so important to us but there are many who do not know why. They are the biggest plants on the planet, and they give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilise the soil and give life to the world’s wildlife. They also provide us with the materials for tools and shelter.
This week my son and I have dedicated half an acre of woodland through the Woodland Trust, in memory of my dear friend Simon who passed early in August. Simon and I loved trees and spent many hours over the last 20 years or so walking amongst the trees, hugging them and talking to them. So I feel the dedication of these trees is very fitting as a memorial.
There is something about trees that has always called to me. I love them all although some are more special than others. I have always loved the graceful silver birch, one of the trees that grows first after any devastation such as fire. Yet the birch always looks very delicate. I also love the weeping willow which seems to have a yellow colour when the leaves are starting to appear. One of my very favourite trees is no longer around having been felled some years ago possibly because it had become dangerous. It was an ancient beech which seemed to love having people around it and sitting on its wide low branches.
Because of my love for trees I am always happy to help in some way when they are planted and I did this some years ago when the Woodland Trust was planting a new wood. The Trust also does other things in the woodland such as preserving hedging and dead tree trunks for insect life. Do you love trees like I do? I hope so. The photo today was taken earlier in the year as I was leaving a bluebell wood. I hope you like it as much as I do. I did use it on an earlier blog but it fits this one very well and for me is worth a second look.
It has been a strange week, snow one day, then heavy rain, then sunshine and then it all repeated itself. But yesterday I decided to go to Leicester. I have not been for several years but I needed art supplies and now I have moved house it is much easier to get on the bus. I set off early and there was a mist rising over the villages in the valley. It was really beautiful and magical. I felt quite sad as we entered the outskirts of the city and the mist disappeared.
Leicester itself was busy and everyone hurried about in contrast to the country scene I had observed from the bus. No one seemed to have the time to stand still or stop and look at their surroundings. I do not like large towns and cities so I did my shopping quickly and went back to catch the bus. By now the mist had cleared most of the area although there were still a few patches. I love this landscape, small hills and valleys with tiny villages nestling in them.
My friend Simon has been taking photos for me of my grove of trees in Londonthorpe Wood which belongs to the Woodland Trust. We have been observing the changes through the seasons. One of the photos he has taken shows the autumn leaves still hanging on the tree despite the snow. But these leaves are encrusted with amazing tiny icicles glistening in the crisp air. The more you look at them the more you see so they are here for you today. Look around your garden or nearest green space and see what you can find to amaze you.
I was talking to my uncle one day last week. He is 93 and when the talk turned to the floods, this was his response. ‘During the war, we had to grow more food, so farmers were told to dig up the hedges and fill the ditches. The hedges never got put back and now there is nowhere for the water to go so we only have ourselves to blame.’ Part of this is true but there are other factors too. We build houses on flood plains and right by the side of streams and rivers as well as on top of cliffs and under them. We ‘make’ the railway take the shortest route even though it may not be the best route but time is precious or so we think. I am sure you can think of other examples where we stop the rain from going into the ground. How many of you have laid tarmac or concrete on your driveway so you can park your car better? Where does your rainwater go?
As druids should we be more aware of what we do and how what we do affects the land around us? I think we should be very aware of the results of our actions and take the time to think about these actions and whether they are right for our environment. This week we have seen the power of the water and we have been given a strong message about the way we build homes and transport systems. Also there have been many other results of the floods where the animal world is concerned. Some species have not been able to reproduce this year as their homes were swept away by the water. The slug has done well though.
So what can we do to ensure that these things don’t happen in the future? Is it too late to change the way we live? The Woodland Trust has gifts that include the sponsorship of the planting of a hedge as well as preserving old fallen trees for the insects.
To cheer us all up, here is a photo taken earlier this year on Woodland Trust property.
I have been a member of the Woodland Trust for quite some time now. When I have had a bit of spare money I have dedicated trees or sponsored trees to be planted. I started by dedicating one tree, then later I sponsored the planting of a small grove of 20 trees. I have also helped the Trust to purchase land for woodland.
I have not been able to visit my grove of 20 trees for some years now so I asked my friend Simon who lives near the grove, to visit and take some photos. This he did and his photos are splendid. The trees have grown somewhat over the last 8 or 9 years and it gives me great pleasure to see them like this, even if only on a photo. We cannot live without trees and it is sad that so many are being cut down to make way for buildings, mining and other things. The Woodland Trust is cheap to join and a few pounds each month keep it going, planting trees for our enjoyment and for our continued life on this planet. I consider my money well spent! Walking amongst trees can be a very meditative experience, bringing peace and healing to those who walk there.