online: 3 november 2002

1 november 2002 a fallen tree

(digitised from fragmentary handwritten notes)

12:00 In train to heath before rainy afternoon.

I spoke to a keeper I know who was waiting (with other keepers and some big machines) to remove fallen trees. He told me that a large oak (near the bird viaduct) and the tallest beech are both down. I hurried on to see them.

The oak was uprooted and I stopped to look at its many broken roots and tried to imagine the pulling force that can snap a root of say 5 centimetres diameter and the resistive force that can hold the rest of the root in the clay and soil. It seems barely possible. What energy there must be in a fast-moving gas. My experience of 'wind' as we call it seems not to imply such power.

Beech Mount. The tallest tree on the heath (though actually it is in Ken Wood). A man tells me it was known to be rotten and is 220 years old (according to the local newspaper). William Blake was alive when it was a seedling and about a billion others were alive then also... and perhaps another ten billion of us have lived, and some have died, in the lifetime of this great tree. What a change. Did we kill it (by altering the climate)?

Rain started as I looked at its soft rotted underside. Its uprooted part is a disc about 3 metres high - the split trunk is almost 2 metres diameter - far bigger than any tree here. I feel sad that it is down and I take time to examine it on all sides. I drew a picture of this tree and included it in the 'imaginary preludes' to the 1992 edition of Design Methods- and I am glad that I did. It looked so fine and tall with its smooth grey trunk and high branches. It stood on the brow of a hill.

Nearby I saw a tiny shrine* made of a small sawn-off tree trunk, wild flowers, feathers and other small objects surrounded by a fence of twigs and string. The word 'peace' was written on a scrap of paper. I first saw it about two weeks ago and though so fragile it is unaffected by the storm. But as I looked at it one of the upright feathers fell into a horizontal position.

I noticed a tiny spider climbing up a thread to the paper on which I was writing. When it reached the paper I blew it off - I hope into its habitat.

As I wrote in the rain by the fallen tree, beech leaves were falling all round me and one fell on the page.

As I wrote

'all is very temporary - even the tallest and finest things in the park'
a beech leaf fell into my pocket.

On my way back I spoke with two people who were looking at the fallen oak thinking it was the tallest tree. When I told them of the fallen beech they went off to see it despite the rain. Yes, people are concerned about such things.

Later I picked up two fragments of willow torn apart in the storm. They seem so tough and springy - I can't imagine the explosive force of that wind. But then I remember that explosives consist only of moving gases. Wind, it seems, is a gentle explosion that now and then becomes powerful and destructive.

*I first noted the shrine on 6th October:


4 feathers
8 pebbles
a nut
2 pine cones
a piece of a branch
some white seeds

all on a little tree stump

some flowers, pink and red, growing round the stump

encircled by a little fence of twigs and cord

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© 2002 john chris jones

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