He stands there high on the hillside, alone, with a valley of trees below. He has been there many, many years, longer than I can remember and the evening sun picks him out against the dark stormy sky beyond. He stands in a commanding position, he commands respect – but what is he?
He is an old, battle worn chief watching over his people. The scars of war are etched on his countenance, trophies from many successful skirmishes as he protected his people. His best fighting days are behind him now but he still sits in council. He knows that he will one day be replaced by someone younger, fitter, but until then, he will continue to lead his people with authority.
He is an ageing actor, the player of many memorable parts over countless years, highly respected by his peers and public. He stands on stage in the spotlight, shakily delivering his lines with all the authority he can muster to the appreciation of those around him. He knows that his best is behind him and that one day he will perform no more. Younger men will take his place but until then, he will proudly perform.
He is a keep, a solid and strong tower, standing sentinel over his castle below him. Many have lived there, the king has visited, and he has provided protection whilst battles raged all around. The battles have now ceased and knights come and go no more. His strength is no longer needed! He knows that one day erosion will take its full course and dereliction will set in but until then, he will stand firm.
He is an ageing stag watching over his herd. He has seen off many young pretenders over the years but remains master of all he surveys…….for now. He knows that one day his failing strength will be his downfall and a stronger stag will defeat him but until then, he will guard his harem.
He is a once strong shelter, a canopy, below which, over the centuries, all manner of creatures have sought refuge from the elements. Herds of cows, sheep, deer, have found protection from storms, rain, wind and sun under his strong, spreading limbs and lush foliage. Bugs and birds have made him their home. He knows that one day his arms, weakened by age, will crumble but until then, he will stoically spread them as wide as he can.
He is a one time training ground for young climbers who gained early confidence by scrambling up his stout trunk to sit on his strong branches whilst he stood still and allowed them. He played his part well in their developing years, protecting them carefully. They have grown up now and moved on with children of their own. He knows that one day his trunk will be too frail to take the rough scrambling of children but until then, he will still be there when needed.
He is a grandad. A once valued and useful member of the community who staunchly contributed to the world around him. Now retired, he sits on his hillside watching the world pass him by. Others have taken on the roles he once performed and seemingly he sits and waits for the end to come. But he has grandchildren now and he plays his part in their development, passing on his wisdom of age and relating to them tales of ‘the old days’ – ‘When I was young…..’ he begins. He knows that one day they too will grow and take on lives of their own but until then, he will be their strongest and most vehement supporter, watching eagerly for their approach.
In the end, the end WILL come, there is nothing more certain. But even in death he will have his usefulness, providing timber that will become furniture or floors or fences or…….. His legacy will live on! And even his crooked parts, his arthritic limbs, will become firewood that will provide warmth through the cold winter nights.
BUT UNTIL THEN…………
This piece was inspired by the old tree in the picture above, which I passed towards the end of a walk in West Dorset. It stands alone on its hillside, separated from the other trees, younger trees, that line the valley bottom. The evening sun picks him out, as if in a spotlight, against a darkening sky…….and my imagination starts to run.
The end of the day is near……the end of the tree is near! The storm is already on the horizon. The best may have gone but what more is yet to come? What do you see?
Thanks for visiting Time to Reflect, and for reflecting with me.
(All words and images on this site are copyright of Terry Yarrow and must not be reproduced without permission)