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Ox Tree

You are young and have much to experience, but as a friend explained to me once, the day you stop learning is the day your life ends.

Explore everything, keep the best.

John Evelyn, 1620-1706
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My Friend

Such is the way of the world today that I cannot reveal your whereabouts, but those of old will know where to look when I mention that you grow upon the spot where once the majestic elm marked the entrance to the learned city.

Your forebear’s throne lay between Woodbine Cottages and the asylum, and she was instate long before the farm took the name of Cheney. Around the skirts of the field a great many hawthorns and sucker elms gathered to seek her audience in crowded spinneys. Horses on exercise from the stables and the twice-daily passing of the dairy cows entertained her, but she most enjoyed the company of a pair of Oxen. The Ox-driver would always spare a moment to share a conversation before bonding the great beasts with a yoke of hornbeam. Their regular work was hauling heavy loads from the ford across the great river a mile west of here and bringing them to the crown of the hill for a handsome fee.

That great elm reigned for more than a thousand years, her life taken within my lifetime by the arrival of a microscopic foreign foe. At least she escaped the encroaching concrete and did not live to mourn the passing of a simple pastoral life.

But listen to me, talking only of old times and of lives long past. You are a tree of youth, surrounded by minds of the future, invigorated with bright ideas and hope. You stand sentinel amid a blur of rushing charcoal uniforms and crescendos of excited chatter.

I wonder what whispered secrets you hear, or what notions of brilliance and glimpses of the future you are gifted daily from eight-thirty until half-past three. Perhaps one day, you might share a few stories with me?


PS My school careers suggested gardener or landscape architect; not bad choices. But no one said that I could paint with trees. It wasn’t mentioned that I could build homes for thousands of birds and millions of insects. I didn’t realise that I could wield enough power to control rivers or clean the air. I had no idea that I could build a future for you and me, and save us from ourselves. You see, no one told me I could become a forester. If you get a chance, could you sow a seed?


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