Trees: a study in wonder




For me, there is something special about trees which have always woven a magical spell. In winter, those bare branches reach out denuded of their rich green coat of summer leaves, they reach out as if to touch the clouds in an unforgiving leaden sky. Like fine and intricate lacework, these bared sleek sinews stretch out intertwining forming an incredible loom of texture – forming an infinite variety of little black numbers fashioned as if for winter.

These same trees somehow signify the beauty and symmetry of life that has been temporarily dimmed by suffering and loss. But deep down we know the seeds of recovery are there in all of us like the leaves within these bare trees lying dormant waiting to appear when winter is done. Then, the following spring reawakens in us a new strength, a new optimism to buoy us up, to carry us forward.

Spring yields to its successor with that supreme tease: a cheery false promise of fine weather in these islands and we think aha, summer is here. But therein we are sometimes lucky as the elements are kind and merciful so the hot sun makes a brief appearance. We bathe gratefully in this temporary heat haze of plenty. The trees fill to brimming over with their green opulence as we gaze in wonder at their majesty when days are long and skies are cloudless blue. Fruit appears in abundance and we can begin to sense feelings of fulfilment.

But we know the season of mists and mellow-fruitfall is not far off. And don’t the trees let us know. The autumnal blaze of colour that is the focal point of our wonder is actually the hue of decay and yet we celebrate this as we kick up the fallen leaves. That gracious and eternal cycle of being and unbeing carries on and we can only begin to sense the wonder about it all. Many trees I have seen have been around for countless years before me and will no doubt be dazzling us with their well-turned out evergreen finery for many moons after I’ve shuffled on. Rather than being downcast I’m emboldened by this as I feel part of an all-powerful continuum of life that carries on. Relentless and eternal, giving strength.

And I will always feel a sense of wonder about trees. Always.

The pictures accompanying this are from Ireland and England taken in various locations and at different times of the year spanning a 42-year period from 1971 to the present, 2013.


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