There was one tree that my dog simply wasn’t going to let me go past yesterday. He ran off and just stood there by its side, refusing to come back, absolutely insisting I go out of my way to say “hello” to it. Well, I often stop to talk to my favourites – typically oaks -and he knows the routine of stopping by them, yet I’d never been over to this one before in all my years of walking there so this was his choice, his unknown reasoning. When I got up close, I was surprised by the fact that its comically distorted outline, made up of knotty old burls like an old man’s nose, was sprouted all over with buds and new shoots; in fact the whole thing was alive with vivid new growth against the earthy backdrop of January’s colours.
There was an undeniable metaphor in this gnarly old lime or “linden” tree with its so-called deformities, an ugly tree you might even say; in spite of which every square inch of it was bursting with new life. Burls (of which this tree had several) are odd-shaped bulbous growths, often caused by illness or stress; though they are highly prized by artisans for the intricate beauty of their grain. This tree seemed to assert that, out of the most unlikely, distorted and tired-seeming old structures, some of the freshest new shoots often sprout. It’s as though all these shiny and bright new growths, asserting all the promise of regeneration, are super-propelled to come out through (and perhaps because of) the unappealing old structure that held them in potential; as though it is the thick-skinned distortion through which they have had to assert themselves that reinvigorated the organism’s fundamental ambition to thrive. From deep inside, all these tender new growths summons up all the necessary courage to show themselves en masse, in spite of the inclement season, and so the whole organism is renewed in exact proportion to what looked most unpromising with the eyes; as is often Nature’s way.
As I leant against its trunk, feeling so grateful for the reminder, I suddenly noticed I was standing in the centre of a star. On every single side of me, well-worn animal tracks led to where I was standing; making it the apparent focal point of the whole acre of parkland during the subtler hours, though you would never guess it in the so-called reality of the stark light of day. These were paths I had crossed so many times on my walks yet, though I had seen them, I had merely stepped over them, never noticing their astonishing coherence before. Clearly one very powerful, wise and magnetic tree with something timely and important to remind me, my seeing all this anew made me wonder how much else we will start to notice about a new and more optimistic perspective that is ready to bud to the surface of our reality out of what looks like the least promising and distorted old growths of our past. The hidden beauty of a world ready to turn inside out would amaze us with what led out from the heart so perhaps we are ready to turn the wood of ourselves in our own hands and be amazed to witness our undeniable human intricacies… utterly transformed for all time.
Burl wood has been valued for hundreds of years; so much so that such trees are sometimes the target of thieves. It is the contorted, disfigured quality (measured by outwardly focussed aesthetics) that make this product of its inner growth so very beautiful as a turned piece of wood in the hands of an artisan.
Stress or illness (the tree’s metabolism hijacked by virus, fungus, or bacterium) makes for this distortion in the tree’s DNA; not unlike chronic illness in a human being or, you could equally say, a messed-up political system and yet, as I have celebrated many times, so much beauty comes out of these distortions, when looked at a whole different way, as the catalysts to brand new growth. Perhaps such trees are, in their way, the hardiest and most likely to regenerate when circumstances seem most dire, being used to such a paradigm and the need to adapt, pick up and keep going. Such a tree still functions in the same way as all the other trees and, in the long-term, so much beauty comes from them that they are the jewel in the crown of the craftsman; the most likely of any tree to be turned into objects that are treasured beyond the measure of all seasons or changes in the direction of the wind.
The linden tree is subject to so much folklore; a holy tree with a plethora of associations and ancient connotations (a dive into Google will tell you more than I possibly could; this is just the very-much abbreviated version on Wikipedia). There is also a herbal tea made from its flowers (one I have in my cupboard and feel this might be a reminder to drink); a natural way to calm the nervous system and full of antioxidants and quercetin, fantastic for alleviating allergies and supporting through illness. All those very qualities it stands as symbol to it imparts through its flowers; just as we all impart through the flower of our best creations the values we stand for, come what may.
Benefits of Linden Flower Tea – Livestrong