There is a tree that stands outside our house, a Rowan tree, otherwise known as a Mountain Ash or Sorbus aucuparia. When we moved into the house, nearly thirty years ago, each property had a tree in its front garden and the rowan tree is the one we were blessed with.
It hasn’t had the easiest of lives. Quite early on it was snapped, I think by a passing schoolboy. My mother in law strapped it up (the tree not the schoolboy) and it thrived for a while though never fully recovered. Now it is a shadow of its former self. Half of the branches are dead while the rest is just coming into leaf. It is a pale shadow of the other trees in the street.
At first I wanted to cut it down and replace it with a healthier specimen or perhaps a different species but I am too fond of it. In parts it is doing well and new growth is shooting out all along its base. It gives me hope that it can recover. Probably not though.
I have now decided I want it to stay. Its dead wood lends a beauty to the garden that is beyond perfection. It shows the struggle that all living things have to cling to life and that not everything can be the way that we would like. It is Yin and Yang, both dead and alive. There is beauty in decay and it is my zen.
But there is more. Thinking about the Rowan has sparked an interest in trees for me and I have taken to planting saplings in pots in the back garden. I now have several different small specimens, including a Rowan that may prove to be an ideal replacement should the need arise.
Like I say, I am very fond of the tree and, with apologies to John Mcdermott:
Oh rowan tree, oh rowan tree, I’m not sure why you’re dear to me; It saddens me how death comes to you, out front as old as our house; Yet a tiny shoot, potted, tended, encouraged to root; Unfolds its leaves as the weather warms.
Oh rowan tree, oh rowan tree, I know now why you’re dear to me; You bring to mind my own and those to be; Wishes like saplings, tended, encouraged to grow and; One day I promise to set you free.
Oh rowan tree, oh rowan tree, I hope somehow that I’m dear to thee.