Cutting Down a Muse

For someone who loves to initiate change, I’m pretty bad at dealing with change imposed on me.

I’m particularly averse to changes in my immediate built and natural environment which is a real problem in this day and age. A house is sold, and a new, bigger and brasher one rises in its place. Huge shopping centres appear in the unlikeliest of environments. Entire forested plantations are cut down, and hitherto empty fields are planted with new forest. And sometimes an entire city changes in what seems the blink of an eye. 20 years ago I worked and lived in the City of London. I went back to the heart of it about 5 years ago and felt a severe and unsettling sense of dislocation and displacement: at its heart it was almost unrecognisable as the city I had inhabited for a decade.

My aversion to change is now about to be sorely tested. I live on a unique and extraordinary avenue of horse chestnut trees which provide us year round with canopies of lacy twigs and branches or deepest green shade or blazing fiery colour. For twenty years I have lived and loved this display which in all seasons and weathers is quite breathtaking.

But the trees are sick. The photo above shows the problem in all its non-glory. They have succumbed to some tree virus and ten have been condemned to oblivion. The council will be replanting with hornbeams (horse chestnuts are now a Health and Safety concern with their big slippy leaves and threatening conkers) but whilst that’s a comforting prospect for future generations, it doesn’t comfort me.

I realise some have got to come down, but I suspect chopping as many as ten now is all about budgetary savings for someone somewhere because it avoids having to come back in a few years and take down a few more.

I am kicking myself for not having carried out years ago a number of art projects concerning the trees, and although I know I have taken loads of photos over two decades in all seasons, I also know I haven’t taken enough. It would be impossible to have taken enough. I will be left with gradually receding painful memories exacerbated with the passing seasons.

Okay, it’s not the end if the world, and I know there is a lot more serious stuff out there in life which is of much more concern. Mourning an avenue of trees is an indulgence, but mourn them I shall.

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2 responses to Cutting Down a Muse

  1. I’m sorry to hear about your trees Gillian – we’ve lost all the elms here, and the chestnuts (my mother’s favorite tree) are following close behind. I found a bunch of sprouting chestnut seeds one year and took them to the local university to see if they could be used – don’t know what happened to them. Use all those pictures to honor them somehow!

    • gillianholding – Author

      Thank you, Amy. They’re sawing away even as I type. Been going all day. The view from here isn’t so bad because there is a complete run remaining on one side of the road. But our side now as you walk the length of the avenue looks very strange indeed. I have retrieved a few logs… I may sculpt something…

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