The Old Oak Tree

I love trees.  Standing in a forest and looking up, resting my hand on a nearby trunk can ground me so much that I often wonder if nature is speaking.

Old Homer, Rostrevor. Picture credit:

There’s a tree in Rostrevor called Old Homer that leans alarmingly to the side and has done for almost two hundred years.  Did Finn McCool lean on it?  The oak is beloved of locals and as I write is being propped up by ladders and scaffolding while people in high vis vests tilt their heads in worry.  Finally, Old Homer might be about to break.

Resilience has long been associated with roots and trees and all things seasonal. We bend rather than break.  We adapt to change.  We cope with trauma.  If our roots are strong we will carry on.  But sometimes the uncertainty and challenge of the external environment can push us to our limits as we face the final straw that tilts the old oak tree one degree too far.

A new year has happened after a long and difficult old one.  But it feels as if nothing has really changed with more lockdown rules and closures and still the inability to meet in person.  I saw that picture of Old Homer this morning and immediately felt an affinity: tired and ready to fall over.

And yet, I also saw glimmers of light in the sky. I saw that those old branches are leaning into the wind and coming to rest on those who can catch them when they fall.  Community is everything, especially when things are tough.  Psychologists have identified its key role in finding resilience.  We are not alone.

Now is our time to lean and wait, find the courage in our deep roots to hold tight to each other until the storm passes.  Nature will teach us lessons as the year progresses – already I’ve noticed daffodil shoots popping up among the weeds. As Hemingway said ‘the sun also rises.’ 

I’ll leave you with this little piece of heaven from Wendell Berry:

And so the day will turn, the trees will move, and there we will be. 

Audio version here!