Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Gate of the Wood

I've taken to walking in the woods recently. At the end of the path, where the trees are thickest and the leaf mould soft underfoot, is a place I've come to think of as the Gate of the Wood.

An ancient stone stile in a tumbledown wall, a wooden one beyond, and beyond that, a sunlit pasture - straight out of Claude Lorrain - with sheep and grass sloping down to a hidden stream.

Just back from the wall, two beech trees overlook the stile. They're like a man and a woman, like a pair of lovers, bound by an ancient spell.

He stands to the right of the path - firm, sombre and upright. Some of his lower boughs are no more than stumps. Wiry tendrils run in clusters up a straight broad trunk that rises to support a half-hidden crown.

She is altogether lighter and more lively - her slender body clad in spirals of smooth grey bark, undulating like the drapery in a renaissance drawing. Leaning to one side, arms lifted to a canopy of leaves, she is like a dancer caught between rootedness and flight.

This is as far as I walk. I stand and look at the way the light from the field touches the two trees, their bark, their curving roots and the path that threads its way between them. Then I turn back into the shadow of the wood and start the long walk home.

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