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.
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
since every single speck of being
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