Golden Ash: Fraxinus excelsior ‘Aurea’
Under the arms of the silver birch I find another diminutive forest
of golden ash seedlings, a spreading bonsai under-storey, taken root.
I pull them out, one after the other, feeling the stem’s wiry strength,
the moment of grip before release, how life hangs on. They colonise
all the corners of the garden, any foothold they can find purchase.
Every few weeks there are more miniature plantations, another crop
hidden under seaside daisies or by the acanthus clump. Only since
the mother tree came down, never before. How do they know to sprout?
What sets them ticking? It was not the tree’s fault that the neighbour’s
drain masqueraded as underground watercourse, pulling the roots irresistibly.
Fault or not, the tree was felled. Not how they used to bring trees down –
battle with a worthy adversary, the necessity of brute strength then
the dreadful glory of an almighty crash, the sound ringing out through
the forest – a last post. But, here, this was piecemeal dismemberment
with no honour in it. I could hardly watch. The night before the loppers
arrived I went out for farewell, for warning, as if the tree could suck
it’s life force back into the earth somehow, protect itself from the
chainsaw’s teeth. I put my palms to the bark, rested my forehead
against strength. Acquiescence to the inevitable but I grieved for the
grandeur of the tree, gift of a cool summer canopy, arabesque
of arms in winter, the palette of colours its leaves painted on the
autumn sky. Now its offspring are charged with the challenge of life.
It’s been months; still they slip their periscopes through the soil and
when no-one is looking, triumphant, they unfurl another green banner.