Sunday, 16 November 2008

The old oak

The oaktree:
not interested
in cherry blossoms
(Matsuo Basho)
This particular tree is probably my favourite tree - an old oak, it stands not in a meadow, or wood, or forest but on an open space outside a large upmarket hotel and near a roundabout on a busy road that is a main route in and out of a busy town. It is still magnificent and holds the history of a much older landscape in its bark and branches. A landscape that existed on the outskirts of a once small Wiltshire market town now long faded, like an old photograph, into the pages of local history.

Since time began the Oak was revered by many cultures. Due to its enormous size and low electrical resistance it has been struck by lightning more than any other species of tree. It is therefore associated with the gods of thunder and lightning - Zeus and Jupiter in ancient Greek/Roman mythology and Thor the Norse god of thunder and the sky. Thor was widely worshipped by Norse warriors, farmers and peasants alike. The Oak is also associated with protection, strength, stability and comfort and still stands as the 'King of the Forest'.

In the Ogham year, the Oak represents the midsummer period between 10th June - 7th July but when I came upon my oak today, whilst walking in the rain, I felt great affection for it. Just standing there being itself, still holding onto its burnished leaves - while the world rushed by - I knew I must pay a tribute to my late autumn, ancient oak.