Life under a chestnut tree.
I flit between
The caravan and the chestnut tree,
Where Victorian ladies bounce and sway and toss their flowery heads’.
I lean back in my camping chair,
And peer among the leaves
In daylight, a verdant green,
by evening, darkening.
Above, my neighbour, a squirrel, peers back at me,
a fox trots by, unperturbed by my presence.
( a shadowy Familiar maybe)
If I stretch out my hand I could touch his rusty coat.
My glass of wine turns purple now in the fading light.
This morning, seeing a willow tree in a field, I remember an important wish (I can’t tell you what it is , its too personal to share)
Getting off the yellow bicycle I approach the willow and tie a knot in a pliable sapling and make my request,
If its granted I will return to the willow and untie the sapling and leave the willow a small gift….a ribbon maybe.
An odd pastime I hear you say.
But I admit,
Sometimes, when no one is looking, I do odd thing’s
Lie in the grass, for example, with my face pressed against the earth, smelling the tiny herbs, yellow bedstraw, wild thyme, birdsfoot trefoil, harebell.
Watching the insects in their miniature world, scurrying about on their daily business.
But mostly I lean against tree’s.
These mornings the skies are blue, the days are lengthening and getting warmer,
the Sun peeps over the horizon at about 6 am and the birds are going crazy with love.
My thoughts have not yet turned to the sea.
They are drawn inland instead towards the tree’s
I’ll blame it on the swallows,
On a recent morning when I was out and about on the yellow bike foraging, I heard their familiar call and following their flight, my eyes shaded against the sun, I noticed the tree’s.
While I was busy with my head down, rooting in the ditches for nettles and goose grass they were coming into leaf.
Time to look up and take note,
Oh what green’s…(and sometimes reds and pinks and white’s)
And Its not just their colours though, it’s how Tree’s are…
Strong, Calm, Trustworthy.
Thomas Hardy wrote in under the green wood ” To dwellers in a wood almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature”
They have their moments too,
They rustle their leaves in the breeze
Sway and sigh in the wind.
Toss their heads and moan and groan in the storm
But mostly they are grave and solemn and stalworthy.
And its to the tree’s I go when my own brain is tossing and turning,
Standing among them or leaning against them, I am calmed.
when I lay my perturbed head against their trunk’s, I swear I can hear them breathe..
Long ago before TV or Skype or even record player’s, people might go out to the woods to ‘ wind whisper’
They would lie under a tree with a question in their heads and drifting into quiet wondering, the question always in their mind’s and focusing on the wind moving though the leaves they would lie patiently and after a while the answer would come to them.
At my Mother’s house there is a wonderful old chestnut tree.
It has watched me grow from a small baby asleep outside in my pram to a toddler stumbling across it;s root’s
A climbing child among its branches…
My dad made us a tree house in its fork and once I fell out and landed on my backside,
I wasn’t allowed to go running for sympathy, for if my parents knew of my fall, the tree house would be seen as a danger and dismantled..
We were loyal to each other my siblings and I and there was an unspoken rule !
The telling of such tales was not allowed as it would spoil the fun for the other more careful climber’s.
So I had to put up with my bruised and painful behind and get on with it .
This has been more or less my philosophy in life since.
I remember a dark side to this tree too, We had a goat, her name was Jinny and we fed her chestnut leaves, lots and lots of them.
She blew up like a balloon, keeled over and died.
But it would be unfair to blame the chestnut tree for this when It was obviously the greed of the goat.
In later years when, through circumstances beyond my control, I lived for a while in my little camper , parked under this very chestnut tree and It became my living room.
Placing a picnic table and two canvas chairs I spent many summer evenings after a hectic day at the hospital, sitting under the cool pale green of its leaves, sipping wine and writing.
I loved its candles though I felt Victorian ladies, swaying in the wind was a better comparison.
My neighbour was a squirrel then, not at all perplexed by my presence and many an evening a fox trotted by so closely I could have lent forward and stroked its red coat.
I was happy living there .
I do remember those cycles home from work, looking into people’s kitchens and living rooms and wishing I had a proper home,
But once I sat under my chestnut tree and gazed up through its darkening leaves as the evening drew to a close I felt safe and content and aware that if I did have a house I wouldn’t experience this …
And I’m sure the chestnut tree was shaking its head and thinking to itself….”I knew from the day she fell from my branches that life wouldn’t be all plain sailing for this one.”
But the chestnut tree is not a native of Ireland, and therefore does not grow within the ancient list of Sacred Celtic tree’s.
Which are ..
The Oak(of course) the druids would never meet for a ritual without this tree being present.
The Yew…(the oldest and may be used to enhance magic and induce visions)
The Apple.(for sweetness and love )
The Ash (put leaves under your pillow for psychic dreams)
The Pine( One of the seven sacred tree’s of Ireland….it is said that whilst the holly and the oak vie for supremacy, the pine is tranquil and peace-loving)
The Hazel…..WB Yeats wrote this beautiful poem about the Hazel.
If outside and in need of protection quickly draw a circle around yourself with a hazel stick and you will be safe.
Of course Hazel nuts fed the salmon of knowledge of which the story of Fionn mac Comhaill.is about..translated as the blond son of Hazel, how we enjoyed this story when we were young (see below).
The Rowan…A Rowan staff is said to protect travellers during night time wandering.
The Birch…Whose spell’s intrigues me, for example…
…..If you are looking for love, take a piece of birch bark, throw it into a stream, saying these word’s ‘message of love I set you free to capture a love and return to me’,
We are told it is unwise to aim it towards a specific person as that would violate the spell.
Seemingly they must come of their own free will……..
You can also carry a piece of birch bark in your pocket if you are afraid of the sioga (faeries) kidnapping you and leading you astray…
The Alder…..Essence of Alder is invigorating and also helps reduce nervousness and anxiety.
The Elder….my favourite tree , I love to make elderflower fritters from its flowers.
Here is my recipe
- Pick a bunch of elder flower heads (leave a one inch of stalk attached)
- Place some cooking oil in a deep pan
- Make a simple batter with one egg, i cup ice cold sparkling water , 3/4 cup of plain flower and pinch of soda bicarbonate, beaten together until smooth.
- Don’t wash the elderflower heads but just shake them gently to remove any bugs…
- Heat the oil.
- Holding onto the stalk, dip the heads in the batter and try to get them well coated, then drop them into the hot oil until lightly brown and crispy,
- Just do two or three at a time and let the oil reheat between each batch.
- As they float to the top, use the stalk to lift them out.
- Place on a paper towel then transfer to plate and sprinkle with some sugar, eat straight away.
I don’t have any photo yet as they won’t flower till June .
The Holly, with its beautiful white wood.
The Willow,….Hopefully tomorrow I will have good new’s. and will go and untie my knot in the willow sapling and leave a gift.
And probably my all time favourite ,
The Hawthorn,,,,tree of magic and mystery and the Sidhe ….not to be tampered with…
Stories abound of what happened to folk who ploughed up or dug up these tree’s where it is said the sidhe (thought to be descendants of the ‘Tuatha de danann’ reside),
These fairies are not as we imagine….tiny beings with wings, they are strong and proud beings who through misfortune live in the underworld…
It is said that when they are around the wind whips up and the sense in the air is that of a thousand humming bee’s.
There are many beautiful tales of these great mythological heroes of Ireland
Well I think I have inundated you enough with tree’s.
And as tomorrow is La Bealtaine and I have to be up before the dawn to pick wild flowers to strew across my lintel and protect for the year and welcome in the summer.
I will bid you good night .