THE TREE OF LIFE
I find the start of a new year, like the story of Creation. In the beginning, all is relatively dark and gloomy. We're often reflective, full of hopes and fears for the year ahead. But then, suddenly, there is light and hope as we become aware of the seeds and shoots promising new life and colour that are already beginning to evolve under the earth. Soon, more of nature's wondrous splendour and beauty, intricate workmanship and incredible marvels begin to appear and at the same time our lives gradually become brighter and more beautiful ...
However, nature can't always be uplifting, especially when it's being destroyed all around us, especially in the towns and villages where we live. There is a time and a season for everything and reflection is important in order for us all to grow and to continue to be 'wowed' by the life we have known in its myriad of forms. So much of our wildlife has already declined here, as elsewhere, let's welcome it back so we can enjoy the bounty and delights that we have done in the past.
Let's set ourselves the challenge of becoming co-creators in the year ahead and consider more natural and 'wild' designs in our gardens. Rather than neat-edged lawns and tidy gardens, let's embrace nature's own sculptures made by eddying winds amongst piles of leaves; instead of tightly trimmed, bare hedgerows let's enjoy thick bustling areas of activity and homes for dormice, hedgehogs and over-wintering birds who need shelter. And let's look above and wonder at the beauty of trees, instead of cutting down their welcoming extended limbs, or slicing through their whole sturdy anchoring trunks, just to make our gardens look 'bigger' or 'better'.
It may help to think of trees as pillars of their community - they are often connected by vast underground networks of symbiotic soil fungi whose subterranean internet helps the trees exchange nutrients and information. Did you know that just ONE TREE that's cut down in someone's garden in the village destroys THOUSANDS of homes for insects, birds, bats amphibians, reptiles, mammals, fungi and moss as well as annihilating the shade, shelter and comfort it provided for many more? And that same ONE single mature, leafy tree, produces as much oxygen in ONE SEASON as 10 people use in a year? Mature trees take years or decades to grow and yet less than an hour or half a day to tear down - and yet they are also vital to our homes as they absorb the pollutants we residents put into the atmosphere providing clean air for us to breathe. They also filter the water we drink prevent soil erosion and flooding, around our streams.
A brave new whorl
We can help nature to thrive. Perhaps you have some trees in your garden? Or know of some in the village that you're particularly fond of. You can help yourself and the village and nature in perpetuity by considering protecting them. In Indonesia, one indigenous tribe buries a new-born baby's umbilical cord in the soil and plants a tree on top so that the child maintains a sacred bond with that tree for the rest of their lives and will do all they can to look after it and protect it. They view cutting down a birth tree as murder. In some parts of Thailand, Buddhist monks ordain trees symbolically as monks, tying them with their traditional robes to stop them being cut down.
We have far fewer trees in the village here (in the UK trees cover just 13% of our land) but we don't have to go to such extremes. Luckily we have the option of putting tree preservation orders on them which prohibits them from being cut down, topped, lopped, uprooted, damaged or destroyed without our local planning authority's written consent and where I live we have our own resident tree wardens.
The 'Tree of Life' has been recognised in art and architecture in many different cultures and faiths. It's a symbol of unity, reminding us that we're all connected and although we may all spread out in various directions we're all part of something bigger. So, let's consider every one of our trees this year and look at this bigger picture. Let's individually consider making 2021 a year when 'All lives matter' and help nature that has long nurtured us, to reign again.