Reaching for the light

In these days of lockdown I am more aware than ever how lucky I am to be living among trees.

The first thing I see when I look out of my bedroom window in the morning is pine trees. Then, as thoughts of tea and toast lure me to the kitchen, I wait for the kettle to boil watching the leafless but elegant ballerina birches, dancing in the wind, weeping as they wait for spring.

 

I love trees. Hate nothing more than the sound of a chainsaw, or the sight of a tree newly and needlessly felled. And I have the immense privilege of being a volunteer at a nature reserve, Mere Sands Wood, in Lancashire. My volunteered task, to write. It’s early days, nothing so far is online while we work out how to do this thing that’s new to us all, but I visit the woods regularly to top up my reservoir of inspiration.

Three weeks ago, before the car park closed, I dropped in for a restorative walk, the threat of Coronavirus and Covid-19 already weighing on my mind. And on that walk I learned something new and inspiring about trees. About one tree in particular.

The day of my visit was not wet, not warm, not sunny, but fair enough. And out I strode.

A sign told me a tree, somewhere ahead, was damaged and potentially dangerous. A diversion was in place and a map provided – but I’m hopeless with maps and went on my way feeling simply fatalistic. If it falls on me, it falls. I know, reckless. Inconsiderate. And not like me.

A welcome shaft of sunlight pierced the gentle canopy of branches, still in their skeletal winter costume, and lit on a mature tree ahead. One long, majestic branch had reached out across the path, probing the trees on the far side. It looked precarious and I was glad to see it had been propped up.

But I was a little puzzled.

Knowing there had been strong winds, seeing many toppled tree-limbs, it seemed odd that, rather than chopping down the overambitious branch, the woodland managers had propped it up.

I barely registered that thought and carried on, my head full of unnecessary woes and rather more necessary anxieties. But as I drew nearer the prop, I stopped. It was certainly a support, but no human had made it, or inserted it.

I took this after passing the tree and after the sun had emerged. Facing the other way in the distance and dull light it looked like a prop, honest!

This tree had been coppiced – either intentionally or by nature. Had grown a new young shoot from its old base. That shoot, where it met the pendulous branch, had clasped its older sibling limb firmly, put its arms around it and risen on upwards, reaching for the light.

The tree had supported itself.

I have never seen anything like it and I went on my way feeling lighter of being.

Trees are magical, social – and occasionally antisocial – when in the company of their kind. They are all connected, like it or not, by the wood wide web* beneath their feet.  And here was a reminder to me that we humans, too are always connected. Whether we like it or not.

I live far from any of my extended family – extremely far from our American relatives. It sometimes feels lonely. Many people have no relatives at all, no friends nearby, feel desperately alone. And now, so many are living in isolation.

But when we need or simply want human help, or companionship, it is so often there for us – if only we let others know we’re in need.

It is not weak to seek support, it is wise. There’s no pride lost in being supported. And there is joy to be found in supporting.

Take it from the trees. They know a thing or thousands.

Wishing you all well in this time of Coronavirus.





Notes:

*Wood wide web was a term first used in the journal Nature in 1997 in an article: ‘Net Transfer of Carbon between Tree Species with Shared Ecto-microrrhizal Fungi, by S.W. Simard, D.A. Perry, M.D, Jones, D.D. Myroid. D.M. Durall and R. Molina .

For more on the inter-connectedness of trees and the ‘wood wide web,’ see The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben.

Support during the Coronavirus lockdown: here in the UK there are many support groups, often to be found on Facebook, just search for ‘Coronavirus support groups’

13 thoughts on “Reaching for the light

  1. You are right about the support there is around…coming back from the farmer’s market a young couple flagged me down…they had come over months ago to see if we had a house to rent but it was too far out of town for them. She is a nursing assistant and told me that she had been meaning to come out to see if we needed any help in current circumstances…It was so kind of her.

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  2. Amen! Mary I loved it. Working in my yard and listening to the birds calms me during this difficult time. In our yard a much-maligned cedar tree has wrapped its arms, and roots, around an old Spanish Oak and keeps it grounded through all sorts of heavy weather.

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    1. The company of trees – we love them don’t we? I’m glad you have your ‘yard’ – garden as we would say, yard implying a small paved over space for us – nothing like your lovely wild patch of nature. I can see it… Hope you’re taking care of each other and staying well x Lou x

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  3. This is perfect… one of my personal concerns is for others during these coronavirus times, those isolated for whatever reason… choice, health, family, circumstance. In normal times isolation is often sought, preferable but in these uncertain times I worry that it burdens. Like the young tree, I hope that community in its many forms comes to fore in this fray… distanced but genuine kindness and care, finding the best in social media’s offerings, and old-school… simply picking up the phone to say, I’m here, I know you, I know where you are, I care how you are, how are you?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Dale. I agree, picking up the phone. I prefer it to video calls myself, I find them a strain. Whatever form it takes, keeping each other company – isn’t that the very essence of humanity in society? Take care, yourself.

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  4. Thank you for this. I love trees too, and in a particularly low period in my teenage years i used to stare through the window taking comfort from the trees outside. Your photos are special – thank you.

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  5. Trees also have a sense of humour. Once, when sweeping up leaves from the towering oak that overhangs my garden, I was almost finished when it suddenly began to ‘snow’ leaves with no wind, and no reason the remaining leaves should have suddenly detached from the tree all together in a mini downpour. Then it stopped as suddenly, my cleared patch neatly filled in with more leaves. I had to laugh.

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  6. Fascinating tree formation!!! Wish I could see it in person! I, too, am a lover of trees … have been since age 3 when I climbed my first tree! That’s why I was so furious last year when our apartment complex hired people to cut down all the trees on our street … for no reason!!! Hope you and the Prof are keeping well and safe these days, my friend! Hugs!!!

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    1. HI Jill – I wish you could see it too! One day… I remember that episode – I feel I am a little cut down myself when I hear or see one being felled. Hoping you and yours are keeping safe and well too. Sending you big hugs – and keeping hope alive. xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Indeed, I feel a personal loss with each tree. We are all fine … daughter Chris (the nurse) is working 12-14 hour days, but is otherwise well. I just stay home except for my weekly grocery trip. Big HUGS back to you, my dear friend. And yes … someday we will sit on your deck and talk far into the night as we share 🍷🍷. Love and big hugs! ❤

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About maidinbritain