An uninterrupted night’s sleep – no 2 a.m.cup of tea and back to bed. Instead, I woke up at 6 a.m., pulled back the curtain I could reach and lay there looking at the oak tree outside. It’s old and battered but covered in fresh lime-green leaves. I toyed with metaphor. A deciduous tree goes through an annual cycle - catkins, new leaves, acorn, browning leaves. But the leafless stage is not death. It’s dormancy.
Although I like our native evergreens I’ve always appreciated the winter shape of the imported deciduous – gaunt skeletons against the sky, the bare shape of its being. Summer leaves give life and bulk, and hide the outline. Such trees lead a double life.
On the window sill I could see photos of Mum, Anne, my niece Janine and her daughter Taylor. Four generations. The oak tree was once young and now is aged, rather shattered by last March’s storm. The cycles of the tree occur around a more basic rhythm, youth, growth, maturity and decay. It is the rhythm of all living things.
The tree ferns on the other side of the apartment follow a different cycle of renewal. Fresh fronds uncurl and spread graceful. They provide a dappled shade that’s great to sit under. Over time, having shed their spores, they droop and die. In my gardening days I used to pull them off and take them to the tip. I now get Bruce our lawn mower man to do this The fern’s trunk shows from where each frond once swayed though other plants now sprout parasitical up it.
As I lay there my mind chased another thought. During the night I’d had a dream, I was back relief teaching. The irritating thing about these dreams is that often I’m in full health, the strong and agile young man I once was. In the school library unpacking new books I was blissfully happy – excited pupil librarians and fresh books, a great combination. Ichabod!
It was with reluctance that I got out of bed and turned off my two machines. Another day. Drat! I've dropped my medicines into my porridge plate. The reality of washing them restored other rhythms. And when I'd done that I was off with Mansfield on her second stay in Bandol. I find my self wishing the poor lass had had better health. Am I a born romantic or are we all. I still want to amend the world. Just as well I can't. I'd have made a lousy dictator.
The 2018 Book Council Lecture
2 days ago