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Love Lessons: A talk with Dr. Bernie S. Siegel and Cynthia J. Hurn


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Ancient Oak


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The oldest tree in Exmoor bears the title, Timberscombe Oak. Once a year, the village school does a sponsored walk so the local children can visit the tree. I’ve been keen to see this tree and today the weather looked perfect for a long, tree-bound walk with my dog, Tess.

The Timberscombe Oak is not on a road; you can only get there on foot or horseback. I pulled out my Ordinance Survey map for Exmoor, but sadly, trees aren’t marked. Not even the oldest tree, officially termed Ancient.

So what is an Ancient Tree? According to the Wildlife Trust, an Ancient tree is in the third and final stage of its life (like me). It’s much older than a Veteran Tree, the classification most Really Old trees fall into.

There’s a scientific method for identifying an Ancient tree without counting its rings. This tree-friendly method is called the Hug Method. (No kidding, scientists go around the UK hugging trees.) Here’s what they had to say on the Woodland Trust website:

“How do you recognise an ancient tree?

The ‘hug’ method for measuring trees:A hug is based on the finger tip to finger tip measurement of an adult, which we take to be about 1.5m (approx. 5 feet).

The trees below might be ancient if they measured the following:

Oak – 3 adult hugs
Beech – 2 adult hugs
Scots Pine– 1 adult hug
Rowan – 1 adult hug
Birch – 1 wrist hug  (I have no idea what constitutes wrist and elbow hugs, but the name provides some amusing visuals)
Hawthorn – 1 elbow hug
Cedar of Lebanon – 4 adult hugs
Field Maple – 1 adult hug
Sweet Chestnut – 4 adult hugs
Ash – 2 adult hugs

Other more technical methods of recognising ancient trees include measuring the girth:

Example for an oak tree:

Trees with a girth of more than 4.5m (3 hugs) are potentially interesting

Trees with girth of more than 5m (3.5 hugs) are valuable in terms of conservation

Trees with a girth of more than 6m (4 hugs) are likely to be truly ancient “

So now that I understood what qualified an oak for the title Ancient, I began asking villagers if they knew where the Timberscombe Oak was.

Each person I asked was happy to give me their version of directions.

The first volunteer delivered his instructions in a rich voice with the local Zummerzet (Somerset) accent.

“It’s awff the owld Luxborough rowd, up the ‘ill a ways, then down the ‘ill a bit – abowt ‘alf way to ‘er bottom.”

Most local residents actually come from somewhere else in the UK. These folks delivered their directions in a variety of accents from educated Londoner to Essex country farmer. Here’s the directions they offered:

“From Timberscombe Common take the bridle path to Dunster and walk towards Nutcombe Bottom. It’s in that valley; you’ll see it below you before you get there, and if you walk too far, you’ll see it above you.”

“Follow the sheep trail across John Prideau’s field; go past Totterdown bridleway, keep walking down that hill, through the gate, and just keep walking. You can’t miss it.”

“It’s under Whits Wood; they’ve recently felled some trees near there – you’ll see it – there’s a steep trail, sort of rocky, that you can approach from the Dunster side, or you can get there from the Timberscombe side, or from the south, across Croydon Hill.”

Armed with a wealth of ancient names, and the vague agreement that the tree in question was half way down a hill (and there are hills in every direction you look around here) Tess and I, after a hearty breakfast, headed out the door, me in my purple Wellies (boots) and she in her best gold fur.

We climbed the bridlepath above our house, made our way through several pasture gates, making sure to secure them behind us, walked along the sides of Prideau’s fields, said hello to some friendly sheep, waved at some curious horses in the next field, passed by two rough, weathered signposts that pointed to Totterdown bridleway, then at a crossways of paths, we chose the one pointing to Dunster. We walked eastward and found the leaf-carpeted “rowd” to Luxborough, went a little ways “down the ‘ill a bit” and saw a clearing on our left where trees had been felled, though not recently. Raven flew over us and called “Brruck, brruck, brrruucckkk! Was he leading us? I called out “Hi Raven,” and began to follow our feathered friend who went back in another direction. Being a winged creature, he did not stick to the path.

We scrambled through a break in the hedge, climbed over some rocks, walked under rows of beech, whitebeam, oak, and ash trees, and there, raven began to circle over a small, rather steep patch of hillside that sloped below us and that had recently been felled and cleared. On his third circle, he flew away and disappeared into the distance, a wooded valley below the hill. But what was that half way to the bottom? Were those treetop branches oak? It was hard to tell. We were standing on the north side of the slope and the morning sun at this time of year rises on the other side. Those long-reaching branches were deep in the shadows, but they looked mighty big, so we climbed further down the steep, rocky clearing to investigate.

The closer we got, the more excited we were. There stood the giant. A few feet to the west of him were two large, gnarled old trees. Veterans themselves, they probably sprouted from acorns, dropped by the Ancient Tree many hundreds of years ago.

The giant oak took more than four of my hugs.  I stretched my arms as far as I could, and hugging six times, I still hadn’t returned to the spot where I began. I gave up hugging. Measurement seemed too trite for such a noble tree.

Truly humbled by the girth and grandeur of this great grandfather of oaks, I aligned my back against the north side of the trunk. Silently gazing across the valley, I soaked in 800 years of the most awesome view – a view of hills and fields and forest and moor and sky – a view this tree had always known.

A sensation of peace and acceptance washed over and through me, and I learned that wisdom is all about peace and acceptance. It’s about beauty, breath, and life.

I turned to face the tree and admire the deeply grooved rivulets and cracks of ancient trunk bark, and it felt good to see fresh new stems sprouting from the scar left by a 2-foot diameter branch that had fallen centuries ago. These stems carried a visible promise of next Spring’s growth, safely armored in strong, long buds, and the last of this year’s bronzed leaves still hung on.

As I introduced myself to the ancient one, something fell from one of the multiple trunk-size branches above. A chunk of bark about the size of a goose egg landed in my palm and lay against my skin – skin of oak meeting skin of me.

I carried it all the way home. Not in my pocket, but embraced by warm palm and soft fingers. It sits beside me as I write – this piece of Ancient, this gift of tree that knows me. Molecules of bodies crossed paths this morning, never to be the same again. My energy merged into the oak; the Ancient one’s peace now lives in me.
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Meditation on Moving On


At Keystone Café, the radio plays

and words of a song from the sixties pierce my coffee-bred thoughts:

Always something there to remind me…

Trying to forget, I know this world is but a dream

a temporary mirror of the other

that place where you and I reside in eternity

mere cells within the One Great Plan

where time has no meaning

and words don’t exist

and love is a given

Yet here, amongst dog rose and lupin

she, open and pink

and he, closed and blue

we became like them – rooted in sand

surrounded by stones and their stories

drinking summer grey mists

on salt water taffy mornings

but rose petals fade and lupins shrivel

their seedpods of black

hanging like coffins

Right now

in this moment

eagle perches for the view

and fish dance

and gulls dive for the feast

and cry

this is mine

All the while

the ferry inhales and exhales passengers

like a heart-lung machine

a blood bank of journeys

a breaker of waves that crosses the synaptic sea

and, locked into terminal, transmits

holders of keys to neurons

In bursts of energy

flowing down rivers of roads

streams of pulsing potential

these elements of the greater intelligence

try to carry its message

this for the arms that yearn to hold

that for the aching walk-alone legs

and yesterday’s broken dream becomes

one Sunday transformed

A poem is born in words that don’t rhyme

as the radio plays another song:

Can’t you hear the pounding of my heartbeat,

You’re the one I love…

Holding the mirror close, all I see is my own breath

and waves that drill the shore in a tumbling roll

while the ocean remains constant

and eagle takes flight

 

Submitted to:

onesingleimpression.blogspot.com

poetryblogroll.blogspot.com/poetrypantry

sundayscribblings.blogspot.com

 

 

 

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Reincarnation


#1

Dead drifted wood

Harboring frost

Dreaming ghost branches

#2

Rising sun warms

Crystal meditation

Awakened water flows

#3

Earth thirst quenched

Knowledge released

 Memories take root

~

submitted to:

Jingle’s Poetry Picnic prompt: Spring

Thursday Poet’s Rally  – Wk 60

dVerse Poets prompt – Imagery

Haiku Heights – Gem

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Shoshone Muse


Return to the place where You began

and know it for the first time

said the Muse of the hills

She of stone, witness of weather

Keeper of the ways of time

whispered deep: Feel and weep

Let your tears paint the earth

with salt and sweet release

to merge in sand, soil and rock

Be grateful

Life is your work

You, maker of art

need only master certain skills

before you can walk away

While  I, Keeper of Time,

stand here before sun, moon,

and seasons

constant, harsh and soft

wearing me down

to scoured bones of stone

 

Submitted to: Poetry Potluck 

http://jinglepoetry.blogspot.com/2011/07/poetry-potluck-week-44-painting.html

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Zen Riddle


On the tree-bordered path

an old man and a boy

with long hazel sticks

walked side by side

rain hats and jackets

zipped to the top

pockets buttoned

keeping their maps dry

They shared old stories

and young ambitions

 

The wind rustled up

a twister of  leaves

full branches overhead

added their rain to the sky’s

Beneath, the walkers hunched shoulders

tucked chins down

and collars up

The path grew steeper, darker

and the heavy sky

grew heavier

 

Are you sure you can

walk this, the boy asked

It’s a long path

The old man’s eyes hinted

watery sweet laughter

The path is fine, he said

walking steady

stepping strong

When I was a boy

this path was long

 

The boy wanted to know

if the route had changed

or been shortened, but

No, nobody changed it

the old man replied

You mean the path shrunk

as you grew old?

Is the path your youth?

No, said the old man, smiling

It is just a path

Submitted for One Shot Wednesday        

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Labels – A Ghazal


 

        

Senior Volunteer’ pasted in black across yellow back, gave the elder a respected Name label;

Actively Aged, Useful Though Old, Worthy, Mature, Wonderfully Wise or another Refrain label.

Girls skipping ropes, rush in between beats – Double Dutch – such treats are only for those whose feet can time, while voices sing rhyme, and stay within rules of the Jumping Game label.

Teen declares, with disdainful stare, a desire to be independent, though dresses alike, no matter the sight: exposed underwear, displayed with such care, to earn his cohort’s Same label.

Disabled: the symbol that flashes to mind when wheelchair goes by with human inside; observers cry should they speak or go there, to the person with chair and the lumbering Lame label?

 Hundreds pass by the bewildered, hungry eye of the mange-mangled beast on the leash; though beaten and abused he remains to amuse at the circus; he wears a Tamed label.

 Scarlet letter on breast of woman – at best a victim, not witch; alone and bereft, her mores were left behind. Wanting to touch her lover so much she risked the taunts of notorious Shame label.

 “Munroe, Marilyn” said the tag on the red-painted toe as the body was rolled by gurney outside. They would hide motivation for suicide and disguise the truth with a Vain label.

We praise those whose beauty surpasses their duty to offspring that suffer neglect; in their endeavors to glitter and gather, we sanction their chase of the elusive Fame label.

 Politicians and presidents strategically plan and play War while they fight without bleeding; though brawn is revered and courage endeared, a hero goes home as a Remains label.

 Would Cindy exist without a sweet tryst, or a story, or some category, to prove she belongs to the pulsating throng of people whose aim is just to maintain some terribly Mundane label?

 

Image: Google: rlv.zcache.com/writer_shirt-p2356882776358568 

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