The Day of the Beech

beech leaves

The neighbourly beech rests dormant
in the Christmas chill, its fermenting finery
forming a crisp blanket at its feet.
Before the weather heats, brave buds
proceed to labour from the tips of twigs; determined spikes
stretch narrowly as if toward a pin-prick sun.
Emerging like wind-burnt field workers wizened by the years,
they peel back their tough leathern tan
revealing tender infancy
as Spring tiptoes in.

The tree
silently breathes
in tune with the racing beat of my childish heart.
I have built a host of annual rituals, without which, my year
would be incomplete. Nature dictates
the day that each one takes place.
Fingers, sticky with Easter chocolate, itch.
I know today is the day;
the day of the beech.

Familiar with its generosity, I’m confident
the tree does not resent
my Easter treat.
Reaching up, I pluck
an opening bud.
Later, these unfurling hands
will make complete the beech’s shady canopy of verdant green
to keep both sheep and cattle cool in mid-day heat;
all too soon, the adult leaves
will be too tough for me to eat.

Gazing skywards at the abundance
within my childish reach, I feel the sweetness
of young leaves between my teeth, and taste
the honeyed birth of Spring.

As I age, I recall:
the fine filigree of a skeleton leaf, emblazoned with a frosty frill,
the seashore smell I toted home, tucked inside a cowrie’s gummy grin,
courageous early snowdrops, rising through a frozen throw,
an orphan feather’s windswept pirouette, its slow descent its frail defeat,
the flavour of a beech bud…
and I remember
the elation that came with every found treasure,
the fascination, the sense that I must not fail
to savour
each
moment
since every single speck of being
is unique.


I marvelled at the beauty of every detail of my childhood world of nature. My life felt vast, bottomless, without beginning. I tried to bring to mind the time that it started for me; the moment when sentience began, hoping that once I got there, I could take another step back, thereby entering into the instant before my conscious existence. I couldn’t imagine how it was possible not to BE. Perversely, I wanted to know how if felt not to feel. At the time, I didn’t know how many fundamental laws I would have been cheating, had my unattainable ambition been a success. 🙂

Recently, for the first time, I saw the faded spark of consciousness leave a body before death, and I heard a final breath as it made its defeated escape. It helped me to understand, on an emotional level, that one day, those who knew me will retain memories of what they knew of me, but I will have no memories of my own; all my unique memories will be gone. No-one will ever know exactly how it felt for me to eat a mellow beech bud beneath a special tree, on a warm Easter day, just as I am unable to taste the precise flavour of your experiences and memories. We come and we go. We are replaced by new life. That’s fine by me.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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20 thoughts on “The Day of the Beech

  1. A few years ago I had that same experience, Jane, watching the light go out of someone. It changed me – as something that fundamental can’t help but do. For the first time I really felt no one was invincible, that the human rocks you build your life upon are not as solid as you believe them to be when you’re a child. As you say, one day the reality of us as we experienced life will vanish and that’s ok. It has to be because we have no choice in the matter.
    Such a beautiful poem – I particularly loved the cowrie’s gummy grin and that orphan feather. Just perfect descriptions

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Lynn. At the time, I was horrified, but on reflection, it fascinated me. When I spoke to friends about it, they seemed shocked by my dispassionate attitude, and swiftly changed the subject. The thing is, I had no love for the man who died. Any pretence would have been hypocritical. You’re the first person who has responded to it in any real way. I’m grateful for the connectedness of your response.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Perhaps we’re coming from similar perspectives, Jane. I saw a horribly bio- mechanical process, watched the circulation shut down as the vocal responses and mental faculties had already done. It is undeniably horrible, but strangely mundane too, a human machine breaking down. It’s not a comfortable subject for most people and most folk I’ve spoken to on the subject don’t want to discuss it either. But then, many of us are coy about death in our society, aren’t we? It’s all a little too real for comfort. Thank you for the conversation, Jane. For this link over the internet x

        Liked by 1 person

    1. My childhood was punctuated with those existential moments. All I had to do was look at the patterns in the sky, or find the first wild violet an I was in ecstasy. Maybe I gobbled up more than my share of joy too early 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Never too many, Jane! Delicious memories to savour.
        Watching someone leave this mortal coil is a special moment. I vividly remember when my mother died. We surrounded her bedside, those of us who were there, holding onto her as she breathed her last. I swear to this day I saw her Soul leave her body. There was a flush that rose up her neck and face, fading as it reached the top. And she was gone. The skin colour returned to normal and she looked so peaceful. No-one else seemed to notice.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you.

      How could I forget your remarkable poetry? You disappeared for a while, and then I had a problem with WP and was required to unfollow a lot of blogs in order to sort it out. I’m pleased to see you’re still writing; you have a unique talent.

      Like

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