Gnarled and Bent

Gnarled and bent an old tree, a spirit of remembrance, stands in ancient lands. Moss and lichen spread around, covering the ancestral ground where, under the roots, a man’s white bones were laid to rest. Clad in purple, yet wrapped discrete in a linen gown. The tree had been young once and likewise the man.

Time passed –

Stream melt water began to flow,
Snowdrops raised their white bells
And jackdaws sat close on newly claimed branches.
The hazel catkins danced in the breeze
And Coel (for that was the man’s name) broke up the earth, softening the topsoil for waiting seeds.

Spring stepped forward –

Frogs found still water to set their spawn,
Soft rain fell to moisten the loam.
Shoots, and thin roots, stretched into new life.
The willow arched over to shade a trout in the stream,
As Coel welcomed fresh born lambs to their first sunlit dawn.

Time passed –

Fern’s fronds uncurled, rising from their sleep
Alongside small white daisies and yellow buttercups waking up in flowery glades.
In the warmth, pioneer fledglings took flight from their downy nests.
Hawthorn blossoms graced hedgerow and hill,
While Coel spread compost from a steaming heap.

Time passed – day and night were of unequal length.
The birch, the White Lady of the Wood, reminded the bear of its strength.

Summer dawdled –

White and blue butterflies innocently emerged in the heat of day,
Brown-bodied bats swooped through the wood at dusk.
Damsel and dragonfly hovered over the lily pad pond.
The ash canopy harboured small spiders and beetles.
Coel gathered hedgerow herbs to care for his neighbour’s health.

Time passed –

The heat of the sun came from high in the sky.
The stars of the Plough gleamed in the black night.
Blackberry flowers produced black clustered fruits
Whilst rowanberries turned red and plump.
Busily, Coel stripped the corn of its grain by day and baked pies in the evenings.

Time passed –

Lizards basked on flat warm rocks,
Early mists hung over the wood.
Mushrooms appeared through moss-covered mounds.
The oak’s acorns sat in their knobbly cups.
Coel dried, pickled and preserved, creating a larder for winter’s chill days.

Autumn seeped in –

Thistle and ivy could grow no higher,
Owls hooted across the valley.
Wind shook the autumnal leaves from their branches
And the beech shed its nuts on the ground for foraging pigs.
Coel chopped and stacked logs for winter fuel.

Time passed –

Rain fell hard,
The days were short.
Geese arrived as soon as the apple’s fruits lay wasp-eaten brown.
Coel roamed, passing through the wood, shrouded against the wind blown cold, his woollen cloak a warming guard.

Time passed – the day and night were of unequal length.
The yew, the Green Lord of the Wood, reminded the bear of its strength.

Winter held sway –

The sun hung low, its light pale.
Water pools took respite, hidden by ice.
The earth was hard in the midst of the frost.
The green fir branches protected the robin, feathers fluffed against coiling wintry winds,
Sheltering near Coel’s home from storms and gale.

Time passed –

Snowflakes gathered deep on thatch and wall,
Deer hooves dug searching for morsels of lichen.
The holly’s red berries fed the foraging birds.
There was no sound in the wood.

Coel sat by the blaze of the evening fire, amongst a gathering of neighbours and friends, storytelling through the hours of darkness. Tales of the Pine, Willow, Rowan, Oak and Holly, Birch, Horse Chestnut and Elder. Myths, legends and fables from realms that lie just over the bridge or behind the mountain.

Any time, any season, in these timeless worlds, you can join Coel as he flies with the owl on the darkest night, swims with the salmon in the deepest spring, looks down at the world with the eagles sight and becomes the stag, the woodland king. Coel sings with the wind as it rustles the leaves, drifts along in misty veils, splatters with raindrops of low thatched eaves, shines in the sun’s beam on hills and dales.

For, although he sleeps in the grave near the old gnarled and bent tree, he is awake in the spirit and soul of the Land.

Page last updated: 13th Jan 2011