Lasting Landscapes

I need to see trees on a daily basis, if possible. My horizon is smaller for their absence.

At some point growing up I was struck by the story in the Bible of the blind man healed by Jesus, whose first words were “I see men as walking trees.”  In some ways we are like trees. If you half close your eyes and watch people moving you get a sense of what the newly-healed man saw in the first haze of sight. After all we have a trunk and our limbs are branches of a sort. When I stand facing a tree and focus my attention into the ground, I can sense the roots beneath my feet; if I raise my arms I am one with the rising growth of branches. In the Taoist practices of tai chi and qi gong you are asked to observe both the earth and the heavens; to feel the downward and the upward energy as you move through space, maintaining contact with both. That is a diluted description of that which takes time and practice to become second nature. We are far too much in our heads, ignoring, or blocking out the many energetic expressions of earth and sky. Words drive our existence when the swirling energy of the eternal now is constantly inviting us to dance. Words have their place – which I acknowledge as I use them like a palette of oil colours, in order to convey a sense of my walk this morning.

Winter, and the scene in St Leonards Gardens is a timeless picture; a 19th century Masterpiece that has barely changed amidst  all the modernisation of the current age.  It was landscaped by architect James Burton in the early part of the 19th century. He turned a village backwater into what became known as ‘a conceited Italian town’. Far from that now in much of St Leonards, but in the Burton St Leonards area of which I write, the houses and trees, the glimpses of sea from the gentle slopes that rise to upper St Leonards, remain, I suspect, much as it was when it was first created. I walk most days along the unexpected footpaths further up the hill that never fail to deliver little wonders of nature; such as fallen branches that snap easily after days of lying around and pop into my carrier bag as kindling treasure for my fire. Another gift of trees, that their death may still provide warmth to others.

In the summer there are bushy, pushy nettles and wild garlic, and a variety of delicate wildflowers sprouting from the edges of fences… All too much to mention in one fell swoop…

But now it is winter and just past the shortest day, the sun glassy bright. like a waning star, scrambles half up the sky, making a song and dance at bedtime, splashing the clouds with fiery red, like a child’s weary tantrum..