Thursday, 26 August 2010
The Walnut Tree.
One of my early memories is the day the man came to chop down our walnut tree. I was three or four and I remember standing on the back doorstep with my fingers in my ears to block out the sound of the chain saw and watching it fall.
In the following weeks we played in the felled branches, climbing on them (trying to avoid the rotten ones that had necessitated its removal) and throwing sheets over them to make tents and dens. The branches were removed and burned on the sitting room fire that winter and we were left with a tree stump in the middle of the lawn like something from a fairy story.
And then a funny thing happened. The stump started to sprout new branches and a mini tree appeared. They were so near the ground that they provided living green caves to hide in and play in. By the time I was a teenager there was one that was such a perfect hideaway that I spent most of a summer under there reading and listening to Radio 1.
When my nephews came along the branches were big enough to climb and they gave the different perches names. The Armchair, The Motorbike. Now they're teaching their younger sister where to find the footholds and my youngest niece is waiting for the day she'll be big enough to climb up.
On Sunday night I hung jam jars full of votive candles from the branches and we ate beneath it. When the heavens opened the broad leaves protected us from the rain for a long time though I will admit that after the first inch of rain (seriously there were two inches that night) we were wet through to the skin and decided to retreat to the kitchen.
This year we seem to have a bumper crop of walnuts but it will probably be the last one for some time as the tree has now got so big that it's blocking light from a large part of the garden and it's time for some of the larger branches to come down. It feels like we're embarking on another episode, part of the cycle of growth, of birth and death.