St Patrick’s day, a holiday in lockdown, a pause within a pause. Busy in that formless way the rhythm has become, I have a proposal to write before a 5pm deadline. A work day deadline on a national holiday on a lockdown. That is the sting. The day is beautiful, mild and balmy with blue sky like we have never seen it, no sleet, no bitter wind. I go for an early morning walk like I’m doing a nine to five.
I pass the little berry tree its branches reaching into the wide blue above – a real hallelujah. I see its scattered fruits on the ground, I wonder does any bird like these as it has held on the them the winter through. I am thinking about particular trees and which one to post to FotG during National tree week, it’s a difficult choice, I love so many here in the Glen. I wander over the bridges towards the resilient birch, hollow inside her bark, her oyster mushroom fascinator now shrivelled from its pearly opulence to a gnarly brown … I am detained by a different offering , a pile of plastic scales, the blue of the recycle bin blackened and become shards, and reformed into a pile, a pile at the foot of a stone. A limestone block with a curious square carved out of it, a flattened place made smooth for a plate, or perhaps a script, a pedestal for a monument. Saint Patrick could be here invisible upon his rock. The curious offering might have involved a burning, or an intended one, a re-burning of these oil rich shards from a previous one that had created them from a bin. A series of loops of transformations and a sense of interruption is present, which makes the emptiness above the stone more palpable still. I imagine Saint Patrick with his crozier raised, tall in his pointed hat and his green robes, and the woosh of the banishing of snakes, beneath his pedestal into the pond and West down the river, meeting the Bride running South, then turning back East in the current of the mighty Lee out to sea, a big flow of many snakes. Away.
There’s the tree I call the military tree because of its bark worn proudly as brass buttons and medallions, with its strong upright character and solid u-turning branch; there is the dead tree that makes the large eye arching into the ponds and capturing pieces of sky in its branches; there is the triagonal Hazel, its straight branches clattering outwards and upwards from its core in the ground; there ‘s the wizened old Willow, cracked almost entirely from its main stem, still getting sustenance by reaching into the water it fingers, making new sprouts along its bent and wrinkled spine. There’s the old rotted core of a stump that acts as guardian of the Gothic Quarter, tree turned gargoyle out of necessity in this once upon a time orchard, as it challenges you to take a seat by its gnarly side. Really its bark is worse than its bite. There’s the tree that rises as twins from ground level in a massive V – (many Glen trees do this). There’s the new oak by its mother tree, bush like in all its optimistic and wiry presence, mother leaning over, offering still her dome, a force field of maternal care…. perhaps all passers and lingerers feel it here. There’s the coven of burnt gorse I call The Witches, still standing since last year’s fires, the witches butter fungus is still present on another burnt gorse higher up, up by the perimeter where a little copse of trees invites you to turnabout under its eaves. There’s the wild and unruly gorse in flagrant bloom since forever and the magic archway formed by willow hanging over the path, so perfect in the rampant growth of the summer months when the rosebay willow herb rises and rules and sways with the wind. Theres the sister oak of the wiry one, not quite under the embrace of the mother tree, but somehow more resembling her, dark bark and looking like she’s going to grow tall, if she can survive being so close to the path of the humans. There are the two tell leaning trees, the opposite of the v trees, maybe dead and clad in ivy, fragile monsters whispering in each others ears. There’s that tree, a definite survivor that divides the path leading out of the gothic zone, seen here as an entrance, but rarely do I loop back this way, my direction being westwards and upwards through the muddy patch and not usually down. Theres the bandy legged v of another twinning tree, I hear a kind of gossiping here.
The Glen has some lovely Laurels, all offering entrances and enchanting the pathways with the promise of something on the in or on the other side… here they form a portal on the remains of the residence where a family grew up, there are fence posts still from that time that form the ring around this space we call the O’Brien Place. There is a tall Ceder matched with another laurel at the other entrance, the main opening of the fence and a pair of Ceders lining the path just outside their massive trunks breathing warmth on those that pass them by and along a bit another dead tree, lightening bolt to the sky.
I was pondering how many trees are planted or grow naturally in pairs, for portals, for friendship, for symmetry, for difference… There are the sentinel Alders of the Hatch, a pair so different in character, the larger curved back at the crown to give a blousy look, or perhaps the sense of attending to those below or at its side. the other upright and pointy, it knows the direction its going in, standing firm. There’s the row of dead Elms, not exactly dead as summer forms new growth at their bases only, survivors of the Dutch disease, a beetle that decimated them back in the 1970s. They are now perches for scavengers who can get a birds eye view from their tips and their white stripped bark trunks create dazzling shapes for the rest of us to admire in the sunlight. There’s the golden Alder with so many golden catkins, an abundance of joy dangling, each Alder so different, I’ve never seen catkins so large and fluffy, they make me smile. And more V shaped trees Alders too have a tendency, one in the bend of the water on the other side of the hatch another in the river as it sweeps by the bottom of the Mountain. Then the twin Ceders on The island, twinned and twining as they are both also contenders for the V prize. The dead tree by the white strip wall, all elbows in a swirl and gesticulating long fingered towards the pond. The pussy willows are offering up their pollen now, luck bees.