Let me introduce you to Mabel. Mabel is a liquid amber maple tree in my garden. She is one of the first things I see each morning when we draw back the curtains. Autumn is magical as the colours gradually change and she becomes multi-coloured. At the moment she is just beginning to turn. In a few weeks she will look stunning, but then the leaves will fall and she will be left in simple outline throughout Winter, before slowly pushing forth new Spring shoots and filling out again. This pattern repeats many times through the lifetime of a tree reflecting changes in the seasons, but perhaps also reflecting changes in our human condition, because like all living things we react and respond to changes and circumstances around us. Mabel is a healthy tree, but a trees growth is dependent on the weather – the amount of rainfall, or the length of drought, as we see in the varying width of rings through the wood of cut down trees. Similarly people respond to their environments. Those who do not have access to foods which are sufficient and nutritious do not grow into healthy adults , they struggle to maintain concentration, they tend to be weak.
Our tree has grown a good deal in the past few years, and we are waiting for the arboriculturalists to come and give her a trim. It is a beautiful tree, and one which I really enjoy having, but it has grown a lot in the last few years so does need reducing to stay in keeping with the size of the garden. We inherited Mabel with the house, so it falls to us to care for her, to be stewards for her . A periodic ‘trim’ means that its overall health is checked and it continues to make a valued contribution to the garden, providing resting places for birds and mammals. The squirrels acrobatics keep us entertained. Its shade is a boon in hot weather.
In recent months we have all had our freedoms trimmed. We have mainly accepted the restrictions imposed upon, and many of us have reflected on the pattern of our lives; noticed and appreciated the wealth of the natural world, and recognised that we have not been good custodians of creation. Maybe this experience is a bit like a ‘trim’ for us: a salutary reminder that all living things need one another; that all life is connected and dependent on everything else. The loss of one plant or creature affects the health and means of survival for others. This year continues to provide us all with challenges, as areas of the country again face increased restrictions and ‘trimmed’ freedoms, there is naturally concern for the welfare of friends and neighbours, and what the longer term effects may be. Yet, the experience has brought to the fore the recognition for action to support the lonely and isolated, the need for people to encounter other people, and the growth of reflection for us all to take greater care of the world and its resources. So, as we approach Winter let’s try and hold on to the positive changes that could be brought about by the pandemic and seek to build on them. Then, like Mabel we can look forward to Spring and a fresh start.