A few years ago I started to really obsess about ash trees. They are freakishly human, and although there are similarities between all organisms on this gorgeous planet, trees are not so immediately obvious. You really have to make time to get to know trees, daft as it sounds, this is the way of it.
Ash is the kindest of all trees to humans. All the products that can be fashioned from ash to furnish us with comfort from utensils to eat from and with, to providing the means of building shelter; as part of a system, and so many other uses, elevate us from what would otherwise be a pestilent state of thuggery, rape, and burning!
More, much more, you can cut ash down and burn it immediately (good burning!). I am adamant ash has saved countless human lives by this one, vital property alone. This kindness, that is a human kindness, I believe we learned from this species of tree, so I struggle with the distinction between human and tree!
Hearing about Chalara Fraxinea, or ash die-back, those few years ago (we now have Emerald Ash Borer beetle on the way) set me into a bit of an emotional tizz! I wrote this hysterical poem, 'Yggdrasil', based on the Norse myth. Yggdrasil, is the Norse tree of life that connects heaven with earth. Three roots lead to worlds beneath the surface of the earth. The world ends when Yggdrasil burns. All good stuff. Tolkien particularly thought so!
I learnt an important lesson from my emotional tizz, and that is, you have to write emotion out of poems, otherwise, quite literally, they become an emotional...mess! funny old game the old poetry!
All around the same time I met my good mate, Rob Penn, in our local! Rob was about to start writing a book that ended up being called 'The Man Who Made Things Out Of Trees'. We talked about Yggdrasil and the durability of myth and how inspiring a tree the ash is. It was love! everywhich way!
Rob's book is all about one ash tree, the callow hill ash, me and my best mate, Oli, dismantled and felled for him, and Rob's subsequent journey turning his tree into as many life enhancing products as possible. A great and essential story.
Rob mentioned me and Oli, and my poem in his book, which I have to say was very exciting, but also alarming! so off I went and started writing all the emotion out of the first draft!
Drive of colour in the stem is human.
After the saw rips the dust out creamy
a blush-pink at cut arrives discreetly;
the pump of guilt, the physical sermon
filling the open space of reflection.
I am never too sure the work will pay
in term of posterity, not money.
Cutting through the myth into the omen,
along the grain old connections travel
sealing the mouth with the meek tact of leaves:
the silent language we learn with our eyes.
Too much stripping life down to survival.
Further than the horizon of our needs
the flesh-plush of trees in commuting skies.