The Glastonbury Oak

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“My poetry was born between the hill and the river. It took its voice from the rain, and like the timber, it steeped itself in the forests…” – Pablo Neruda

During a particularly muddy and dank Glastonbury festival, I took refuge from the rain under a magnificent, 500-year-old oak tree. Taking shelter beside me was a lovely woman who runs Glastonbury Festival’s Oak Tree Project, an initiative which distributes acorns from the tree to be planted around the country. I was subsequently inspired to write this poem. I sent it to her, and she said she’s going to display it near the tree at next year’s festival. Which, I feel, is quite an honour!

 

I am a tree.

I am completely what I am, beyond thoughts or words.

But we are not so different, you and I.

Our bodies tell our stories. The storms we have weathered, the seasons we have lived.

The ways in which we have learned to love.

 

Five hundred winters I have stood upon this earth.

I do not have legs to carry me, but I have traveled far.

I have welcomed the dawn as it greets me like a song each day, and born witness to the mystery and promise of each night as it falls.

I have listened to the music of the moon as she swells and wanes in the sky, and watched the clouds come and go, as all things do.

I have journeyed round the sun, feeling the breath of the earth rise and fall in me as the great wheel of the stars spins above me night after night in the glittering vastness.

I have caught the gentle kiss of spring rain on my leaves, and danced in the light of the golden summer sun.

 

Like you, I have known joy.

The furred and feathered folk have tickled my wooden body with their footsteps:

The red squirrels, the songbirds, the owls who nest about my crown;

The tiny insects who forge whole worlds on a single branch;

The four-legged bears, the badgers and the wolves who prowled in my shadows and slumbered peacefully in their dens among my roots;

The worms – the sacred keepers of the soil;

The mosses and the lichens who cloak my trunk and limbs;

The bright flowers of the rising light and the mushroom people who visit as the nights draw in.

All are my kin.

I have given them shade and shelter, food and clean air to breathe. It gave me joy to feel their quiet presence, their different forms, soft and light upon my body.

They are fewer now.

Some have not visited me for a very long time.

 

Once, my people ruled these lands. The spirits and the songs of the forest were many, the rivers flowed clean and clear. The magic was good and strong. The two-legged people knew that the land was not so different to them: a living being, deserving of respect and love.

Then they came with their machines, their saws. A shadow fell over the land. Much was lost. They come still; I hear the cries of my cousins both near and far away across the ocean. Your soul hears them too, though your ears do not.

 

But shadows, like clouds, come and go. The magic remains.

It is the land, and the land is the magic.

The trees and the streams and the stones remember this; they whisper its stories, and they are always there for those who listen, who want to remember.

If the trees and the streams and the stones should ever forget, the stars are always there to remind them.

You, too, hold the wisdom and the medicine in your bones, sure as I stand upon this spot.

For you, too, are sacred. You, too, are of the earth.

She is waiting for you to come home.

 

I see the little people now, rushing about, always in such a hurry.

I do not wonder where they are running to, or what they may be running from.

I am just a tree.

But these are just words.

You look tired, little one.

Come, rest a while beneath my branches, where you need do ought but be.

There is time.

Let us simply be alive together, for a short while, in the peace of this magnificent dance.

 

Originally published on Rebelle Society (rebellesociety.com)