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a guardian of the riverbank

June 22, 2010

I am rather excited about today’s tree. (Hmm, looking at that sentence….wonder if I need to get out more….) No, stay with me! We had a picnic down by the river on Sunday, where we were re-acquainted with one of the most wonderful characters on the estate. A sycamore (again: I do seem to be repeating myself this month, I’m afraid) but such a sycamore. Broad of girth, many-limbed, rounded and pleasing in silhouette, it stands guard over the river with its feet deep in wildflowers and its branches stretching out towards the pebbly shore.

How long has it stood here, I wonder? It must have witnessed generations of fishermen working the water in search of the elusive salmon. For the past hundred years or more, salmon fishermen have worn breeks (britches or plus-fours) of good warm Harris tweed: what did they wear in the eighteenth century, though? Did they net the fish in those days, was it just the odd poacher who bothered with salmon, or was it already becoming a sport for gentlemen? Did people pause on the shore, looking up-river to admire the view of the hills rising in the north, or did they turn their backs on the barbaric highlands and glance gratefully at the peaceful pastures downstream? This tree would know all the answers, if only it could communicate them. More likely, however, it would not have noticed anyway. Its slow consciousness would probably be all of earth and air, rain and the river’s rise and fall, growth and green days.

And perhaps of the occasional little boy who, as the centuries have wheeled, has in his turn discovered the sycamore’s thick limbs and mossy platforms. It is a horse to bestride, it is a high fort to defend, it is the deck of a pirate ship tossing on the seven seas. It is a marvelous, marvelous tree.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 22, 2010 9:40 pm

    I don’t mind another Sycamore! Those branches would be irresistible to a young boy (I can see they are). I would be up there with my brothers when a young girl. And imagine how many fly-lines have been caught in them!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      June 22, 2010 10:30 pm

      Yes, I wonder. I was sorely tempted to climb up myself, I must say!

  2. June 23, 2010 4:53 am

    What a particularly fine specimen of sycamore!

    and I don’t believe I have seen one so mossy before

  3. June 23, 2010 10:18 am

    What a wonderful tree. How I miss trees – when I need a tree fix I go up to the Lews Castle Grounds in Stornoway – Lord Leverhulme knew a thing or two when he planted the woodland there. I think the smell of rain on leaves is one of the most calming fragrances there is. Ahh, my day is definitely better for having had that thought…..

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      June 23, 2010 10:33 am

      There’s no doubt that trees are good for the soul. Mind you, for me it is a dream escape to visit the Western Isles: the salty air, the sheep-cropped pasture, the quiet except for the whisper of the wind in the machair and perhaps a lark twittering. Beautiful, just. But I’m not sure that I could live long in a place without woodland. I am happy to be sharing our trees with islanders everywhere!

  4. June 23, 2010 11:39 am

    gorgoues tree. Must be a time for getting tree-happy. We have so few trees in Shetland. I spent yesterday under the canopy of one of the plantations and got my tree energy shot! If only trees could speak and tell us what they’ve seenx


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