Outlook 16
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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Nature Notes
10 Nature Notes Tree of Life We are connected to the Earth and to the seasons by trees – ‘our mute companions’, as the poet Ruth Fainlight puts it. We need trees more than they need us. They provide us with timber for our houses and furniture, fruit and nuts to eat, firewood for our hearths. Trees also have a spiritual element: ‘I am the pine tree which shelters you’ (Hosea 14:8) and ‘The leaves of the Tree of Life are for the healing of the nations’ (Revelations 22:1). Like us, trees live in communities – naturally occurring or by man creating tree cover, transforming open moorland or industrial wasteland into attractive and useful woods and forests. Trees have their place in mythology and legend. Early Scandinavians believed that the Ash Tree, Yggdrasil, was the Tree of Life, its roots and crown uniting the lowest hell with highest heaven. Our own culture revels in the mystery of the Oak – tenacious, strong – emblematic of Royal Navy ships, and symbol of the National Trust. The graceful Birch is a forest dweller, conspicuous with its white and black bark, a tree which once provided the means of chastise- ment for errant boys, and timber for cotton reels. Look for the Norway Spruce, originally a native of Europe, and now firmly established here as a Christmas Tree. Everything in nature is connected. Trees inspire creativity. Think of Samuel Palmer’s visionary painting The Magic Apple Tree, and our own John Constable’s lively depiction of the Elm Bole. Poets, moved to verse by trees, are legion and include William Wordsworth, Thomas Hardy and John Clare; William Barnes offers his poem Trees be Company in his native Dorset dialect. Walk into the winter woods, rustle the fallen leaves, pick Sweet Chestnuts and Hazelnuts to eat, and Holly berries to welcome Advent and Christmas. Pick twigs of Mountain Ash – to fend off witches! Time was when people would not enter woods or forests, fearing the spirits who lived there. Make connections, make bark rubbings, make a leaf collection, take photos, identify trees by their buds and skeletal outlines. Wrap up warmly; a winter woodland walk is good exercise, invigorating, inspiring and educational. It will also teach us something about ourselves. And remember the words of Emerson, the American philosopher: ‘In the woods is eternal youth’. Michael Stagg Photo credit: WTPL/Ken Leslie, The Woodland Trust (see p.6)