Trees.

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I do love a good tree… I don’t actually have any of any great size in my garden, other than the apple tree which my partner lovingly grew from a pip about twenty years ago.

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Its apples are horrible, but the flowers are beautiful, and I love the goodness, the symbolism of my apple tree. It has had many a wish made on its branches, and next year, in the Spring, it will have Tibetan prayer flags draped around it.

Trees are inherently symbolic and packed full of meaning – just look at the Tree of Life. I feel the bareness of tree branches in Winter, reaching out their empty arms and pleading with Mother Nature to return soon with their leafy covering…

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There is something very primitive about walking through a wood in Summer, harking back to our lives centuries ago, when the first upright walkers left the safety of the trees for the open plains.

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Every step taken through these enclaves of trees is a passage to the past when Mankind was far more intimately connected to the cycles of Mother Earth. Our lives have been entwined with trees like ivy round a trunk… they provided shelter, fuel, symbols, myths and legends.

Every time I see this tree I fully expect the Green Man to be just around the other side…

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There is a stark beauty too, woods in winter, naked, bare and beseeching reaching up to the sky, the very heavens, Nature’s own cathedrals; while down below their roots grip Mother Earth secretly, drawing hidden life to the surface.

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Another bridge, another link in Life, chapter in this Book … And when all is bleak and bare, there is comfort to be found in the promise of returning Life.

Trees, Ting… And Tinkerbell!

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I quite like trees. We don’t actually have that many in our garden, there’s four miserable looking leyllandii, that my partner insists are his topiary project, which to me just smell of cat pee… We have an apple tree that he grew from a pip, which obligingly puts forth a fantastic display of beautiful, delicate blossom every year and produces apples as hard as bullets and that are the sourest thing that Mother Nature has ever made.

We have a lemon tree, lovingly grown by my partner from a pip. (But we won’t talk about that…) My son likes trees and has spent a lot of time photographing them, drawing them and painting them.

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But none of the trees in my garden are particularly large. Our house has a park adjoining our garden, and right next to our boundary fence, we have two large trees, I think they’re ash trees. They make a mess, anyway, dropping dead leaves into the garden, the sticky bud cases get in between the cats’ toes and only the most determined plants will grow in their shade.

However, they can come in useful, I suppose. The squirrel uses them as a quick getaway route, goldfinches and blue tits sit in them and pigeons fight in them. Ting likes to sit on the garden table and watch them.

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Now. Our neighbour has a cat. Nothing wrong with that at all, apart from the fact she’s a bit dim… the cat, not the neighbour that is. She’s a beautiful cat, a Chinchilla, but she just has no concept of boundaries, or personal space, or danger… The neighbour is forever retrieving her from under cars, other peoples’ houses and so on… The other day, the cat, Tinkerbell, thought she would investigate our garden. Luckily for her, my girls were having their afternoon siesta, as my partner – never one to resist a pretty face – made friends with Tinkerbell and accompanied her on a tour of our garden. Tinkerbell thought she would repeat the visit the other day… this time, however, Ting was awake. I never thought Ting was a particularly fierce cat – she tends to flirt with passing males:

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Ooh, you’re a big boy…” and apart from her sister, has little to do with the other girls. Well. She took one look at Tinkerbell and CHASED her… right out of the garden and straight up the larger of the two ash trays… trees… Freudian slip there.

Charlie told me what happened. Not that she’s a tell-tale, but she obviously witnessed the whole incident and as the responsible adult, felt she had to come and warn me. Ting sat at the foot of the tree:

Hi Mum, look! I’ve chased that funny coloured thing up the tree, let’s leave it there…”

Tinkerbell looked down at me miserably:

I only wanted to be FRIENDS! Where’s that nice man from the other day?!”

I went to fetch my partner. He looked at the tree and looked at the cat.

I’LL NEED MY LADDERS FOR THAT!” (He’s quite a small man, and it’s quite a large tree, and the cat was quite far up…)

I looked back at him impassively. Charlie and Ting looked at him. Tinkerbell chose that moment to change position and balance on one of the thinnest twigs…

He fetched his ladders. He wanted me to video his heroic rescue, but I felt I had to hold the ladders. Large tree… small bloke… wriggly cat… I managed one picture though, to show the neighbour. Although Ting suggested I make a ‘Wanted For Trespassing’ notice from it…

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Hedges and Herons

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When we first moved into our present house in 1999, it had an eight foot high privet hedge running all along one side, between us and the park. I quite liked it, as it gave us a degree of privacy from people using the park facilities, and also acted as a shelter and windbreak.

I remember, when I was a little girl, privet hedges were not quite so popular, and, of course, we had stick insects … my sister went on regular forays to “borrow” from the neighbours’ hedges to supply sustenance for our pets. My father had planted Lleylandii, a quick – growing type of conifer tree that very soon became the bane of his life as he tried to trim and shape them. They remained resolutely wild and … hairy, smelling of cat pee and harbouring small brown spiders with white markings on their backs, like hot cross buns …

What is it with men and hedges? Eight years after moving in, my partner decided it would be a good idea to rip all the hedge out and replace it with climbing roses, fuchsias and the like … I tried my best to persuade him not to do it, pointing out it would take years for the cover to be replaced. Faced with the answer:

WELL, I’M NOT GETTING ANY YOUNGER AND I CAN’T KEEP ON TOP OF IT!”

The hedge’s days were numbered and, much to my regret, it went. I insisted we kept half.

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Apparently though, this is one of the things that has led to flooding where I live. People are ripping up their hedges and their front gardens to make way for paved patios and parking. The natural soakaways are gone and some areas are now prone to flash flooding when it rains, causing damage and misery.

These front gardens were such a bonus when these houses were built. A little patch of earth to plant some bulbs and nurture a lawn, a treasured symbol of going up in the world … hope, that after the slum clearances finished around the 1930’s, that things were looking up … promise, a young couple’s first home, away from the necessity of “Living with Mother”…

We are a nation of gardeners, after all. (My secret celebrity crush is Monty Don …) Perhaps this love of gardening bloomed with the prospect of owning our own little piece of land. Although I love the grandeur and glory of the gardens attached to stately homes, I also enjoy humbler, more accessible gardens.

At this point, I feel I must confess … I’m not the world’s best gardener. Possibly too impatient, as I like to dig things up to check on their progress, to compare them with pictures on the Internet and berate them for not behaving as they should … Despite this, we have a reasonable garden, filled with a variety of plants designed to encourage bees and butterflies.

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Not really herons, though. My partner has a pond, stocked with goldfish and shubunkins, home to frogs, newts and a pair of toads. Some of the fish are older than our sons, who are 17 and 22. Indeed, some of his fish knew him before I did. Justly so, then, he is proud and fond of his fish, and we have been lucky enough to have had several lots – litters? – of baby fish.

One morning, it, was an early spring morning, so still quite fresh, I went outside for the first cigarette of the day. I lit up, inhaled with relish and looked around the garden…

Have to cut the grass soon… that clematis could do with tying up… not sure what that heron wants, but it can’t stay there… WHAT!!”

Sitting on the hedge was an enormous grey bird. It was huge and splendid. I froze, somewhat afraid, actually, because it was the biggest bird I had ever seen in real life. It was sitting, quite unconcernedly, looking in the pond – oh dear – from the top of the hedge, and it turned to regard me with great, round, golden eyes.

I was at once struck by the elegant, yet powerful neck, the sweeping black eyebrow feathers and long, sharp beak. The compact, feathered body, neatly clad in business suit grey and long, scaly, greenish legs. It was Jurassic.

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Um, I’m afraid you’ll have to go elsewhere… you can’t have these…”

I stammered nervously.

What was I thinking? With a beak that size, it could come in the house and I’d make it a cup of tea if it wanted … It looked somewhat contemptuous at my words and shook its wings out, with a sound like flapping sheets, then slowly rose into the sky.

I was transfixed. As it flew steadily and majestically away, I was reminded of nothing more than its prehistoric relatives, the Pteradactyls of years past, its snake – like neck folded in, legs tucked underneath and massive wings beating.

My partner was horrified. And at once purchased a net to cover the pond, although I drew the line at a plastic deterrent heron. Now our hedge is gone, the pond is not such an enticing sheltered fishing spot. I still see the heron, though, as there is a large country park to the West of us, where I presume it has better fishing grounds.

Its silhouette is unmistakeable in the sky, a remnant of our pre – history, sailing monstrously against a skyline of houses and taller buildings… out of place, somehow, as if its backdrop should be huge trees, ancient forests and old times…

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All photographs Copyright © 2016 Alex Marlowe

3 Day Quote Challenge Day #2

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HThank you to Dolly once again for this challenge, please do stop by her blog… Some wonderful recipes and fascinating history.

This beautiful piece of writing is new to me, but it personifies how intensely I feel about the sanctity of this world that we live in, the caring we must share and the inter-connectedness.

You carry Mother Earth within you. She is not outside of you. Mother Earth is not just your environment. In that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have real communication with the Earth, which is the highest form of prayer. 

Thich Nhat Hanh

 

The rules of this challenge are:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you, and link back to their blog.
  2. Post one quote a day, for three consecutive days.
  3. Nominate three other blogs to pick up the challenge and run with it.
  4. Obviously, let your nominations know!

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Todays’s nominations are:

 

All photographs Copyright © 2016 Alex Marlowe

Murder… most crispy

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I didn’t mean to do it. Honest. And I feel awful too, absolutely horrible. I have killed my son’s Bonsai tree.

Bonnie-as she was known-was purchased from a special market that only comes to our city twice a year. They have wonderful stalls, one that makes French crepes, a subtle flick of the wrist and your pancake is done to perfection, sugar or syrup added and it is presented to you in a paper cone. No bits stuck to the ceiling as you try and flip, no acrid black smoke drifting through the house…A hand made chocolate stall, rich and dark, glistening with the sheen of luxury and finished with points of nut, sugared flowers…ethnic stalls with clothes and bags, bright zigzags of colour against the usual dull grey of the market square. An amazing Baltic Amber stall, chunks of the past polished and made into wonderful things…like trees…Yes, I know, I’m evading the issue…

My son and I were wandering entranced through the stalls when his eyes fell upon one previously unnoticed, selling Bonsai trees. His face lit up and he set off with determination. Even then, my heart sank a little, as I am not the world’s best gardener and any houseplants I am given are usually re-homed for their own safety.

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Moss Agate – the ‘gardener’s talisman’ and beneficial for increased plant growth… 

However, these little trees were robust and jolly. Perfect miniatures of their giant counterparts, tiny leaves of emerald and jade, glowing with health and vitality. Some even had little flowers, dainty and delicate, that looked as if any minute a tiny fairy would pop out from behind its gnarled trunk.

After much debate and conversation with the stallholder, my son decided upon a Chinese honeysuckle. Not quite as aged as the others, her delicate trunk bore aloft fine branches and tiny twiglets, carrying miniscule leaves that shone green in the sun, bursting with health and vigour.

Proudly, my son bore her home, studied the instruction leaflet assiduously and installed her carefully in the optimum spot in his room. He named her Bonnie, spoke to her tenderly, watered her carefully and gently dug in the pellets of feed.

At first, Bonnie seemed to relish the attention, she stretched out more branches that my son carefully tweaked away to maintain her neat shape. Then something went wrong. She had a little accident where the cat sat on her…but nothing to DIE about. Her leaves lost their gleam. She seemed somewhat pallid and unhealthy.

Then one day when my son was at college and the sun was shining, I thought:

Perhaps she’d like a change of scene. The fresh air and sunshine might cheer her up.”

I carefully placed her on the garden table and left her. Overnight. I forgot.

When my son left for college the next day I rushed out and brought Bonnie in. She looked…crispy. As I looked, a couple of leaves fell off. I elected for the coward’s way out and replaced her in my son’s room still looking…crispy. Later, my son said:

Bonnie’s not looking too well, perhaps I’ll water her, and give her a bit of Reiki. Maybe gridding her with Clear Quartz points and Moss Agate will help.”

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Numbly, I nodded my head. Personally, I thought it was too late as Bonnie had probably already left for the big forest in the sky…

I love my son. He’s had some unpleasant incidents in his short time on this earth, but he remains calm, kind, immensely compassionate and forgiving… I told him what I had done. A brief look of pain crossed his face. Then he said:

It’s all right. We can get another one when the market comes again.”

A weight lifted off my conscience, but the black stain of murder remains in my mind. I’ll buy him an Amber tree…what could possibly go wrong with that?

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