Some months ago I saw a rowan tree which had blown down. It was in a place where I walk regularly and was part of a line of trees. Perhaps partly because there was only one rowan in this series, I felt its loss keenly.
The tree had had its roots broken at ground level and lay on its side. It set me thinking about structures in human life, systems or organisations, which have similarities with a branching tree. Sometimes these look to be perfectly healthy and yet they may subside rapidly, like the suddenness of a tree toppling.
Just as a tree may have a limited life-span, so too may structures have a period beyond which they outlive their usefulness. I struggled to accept that this was the end of the rowan. I wondered if it might even be that it would still be alive when spring came, as part of its shattered roots was still in the ground. However, it could never be quite what it once was and I needed to adjust to it as a fallen rather than an upright tree.
We’re now approaching autumn. As a bumper crop of red berries has burst forth, I’ve realised that there are several younger rowan trees close by the site of the original tree. Perhaps this is what happens sometimes – it’s only when something old has died that we see that something new was growing alongside all the time…
And the fallen tree? Has it survived? No, it hasn’t but that hasn’t been an entirely natural process. Not long after it came down, someone sawed the trunk into pieces and took it away. This gives a sense that even the demise of the living tree potentially holds something positive in it. I don’t know if the wood has been used for firewood or parts of the trunk made into seats. Perhaps by now it has been carved into something smaller, so that something of this rowan lives on in another form.