I drew this ash tree at Hazel Hill Wood last weekend. Though it rises opposite a bench where I like to have a morning coffee, I have never paid it much attention. But doing a twenty-minute sketch I am discovering the tree. Climbing the trunk that rises without foothold for a third of its height. Noticing for the first time its rhythm – the trees spatial ordering. How one trunk becomes a thousand twigs, like a trachea transitioning to countless alveoli.
As I draw I see a space in the canopy to the left, one that I would not have noticed otherwise. I presume it is a space left by another tree that is now fallen, on the ground but leaving its imprint in the sky.
The past is rendered in the twists and turns that the branches take. Each one a decision about how to optimise access to light. I have recently learnt about the concept of crown shyness, in which the upper branches of two trees of the same species don’t overlap. Instead they leave one another alone. Cooperation rather than competition.
And the future lies in the foreground. A host of hornbeam saplings regenerating all around. The next generation of forest in thirty years’s time.
By drawing this tree I feel I have connected with it. Even now, as I write about it sixty miles away I can see the low sun lighting the right side of its trunk. Next time I visit I will be looking for it.
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