I like to visit an old ash who sits in the hedgerow in a field just over the crest of Wick Hollow. Each morning I stride up the hill eager to place my feet at the feet of this magnificent specimen.
I pass through the hollow, my upward gaze interrupted only by passing vehicles and to greet the other morning jaunters. The trees here grow on a vertical embankment, enhancing their towering stature. The roots are exposed and climb down the face, the trunks climb upward, pillar-like before arching their branches over, their layers of foliage reverse cascading to create the ceiling of this colossal green cathedral.
I veer left through a smaller hollow that reminds me of a discrete badger’s path disappearing into the brambles. At this point there is a sense of body growing smaller, Alice in Wonderland style, as one climbs the stony pathway through an ever narrowing tunnel, a perfect disc of light pinpointing the exit.
Passing through this canal in the morning is like being reborn into the day, at the far end of the tunnel I’m greeted by an open field, the views sweep down onto coombes, tumble through orchards, fall over farms and out onto the Levels. In the distance, Wells Cathedral, and further still, the Mendip Hills. Laying eyes upon this view is medicine, concerns of the day are curtailed as my body sinks into the environment, green and blue and soft and alive.
The ash sits in the hedge on the left, he’s a sturdy tree with quite a girth. I say he because I feel a certain masculine energy from this tree, I also notice that it’s holding no seeds, which would denote a male tree. The old trunk would require three of me to wrap my arms around it, it ends abruptly at around 12ft and from it sprout a number of new branches, substantial in themselves, reaching upwards like giant’s fingers.
I enjoy giving names to the trees, descriptive names based on their features or location, like the Wiggly Oak, the Guardian Beech. The name of this particular tree came to me as I sat beneath it meditating one day. The Grail Ash, whispered gently into open ears. With its trunk forming the stem of a drinking vessel, its roots revealed and flutes splaying to create the foot. Its fingers reach upwards forming a cupped receptacle in the top of the trunk that cradles a mini ecosystem.
As an aside, this is not the only grail shaped ash, it’s common to find them in this shape, some are pollarded or damaged and regrow anew from the old trunk. I have observed the new growth of ash sending roots into its own rotting trunk, a method of extending the tree’s life that I was aware of in the yew tree, but not in ash.
The base of this particular ash tree is perfectly shaped for my backside, the exposed roots form a handy meditation stool, and allow me to cross my legs while the trunk supports my back. When closing my eyes beneath this tree I am quickly sent into a calm state with clear presence. On more than one occasion I have been presented with an interesting internal experience: I catch glimpses of my hands with shoots of green ash leaves erupting from black buds at the tips of my fingers. At times it appears as if the ash wants for my fingers to grow leaves.
The ash tree is full of treasures, and I am sure there is even more to these trees than meets the eye. From its diamond shaped black buds to its firework flower display, ash is a mysterious tree connected with Yggdrasil in Nordic mythology, the tree around which all life takes place.
Ash is the tree I feel most affinity with. The more I open up to it, the more it willingly reveals itself. The Grail Ash is quickly becoming the tree around which my life takes place.
Matt Witt 29/07/2020
Bring the outside in!
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