Monday, 21 April 2014

Storm Tree - Phil McMenemy

A tree is a tree is a tree - isn’t it?

I think for many of us that’s the case. I think it’s easy to see why this might be so when confronted by huge swathes of forestry plantations or tangled, confusing woodland. But if you look more closely trees can be different, well they can be to me at least.

I’m not saying I know every tree I’ve ever met, that’d be daft but some trees are worth getting to know – and I know a few... like I know ‘Storm Tree’.

She was old when we first met. We were on nodding terms and viewed each other from afar for almost eight years – I knew I’d go visit her to say hello at some point – and then I did.

It was the most special evening, a dramatic sky and wonderful, electric light – a large, angry black front was moving across Galloway from the east... yet before it was the most clear blue sky imaginable – perfect.

I knew where I had to be – I was going to the tree, Storm Tree, though at the time she had no name – that came later.

Drive, leave car, walk – eyes fixed on tree watching and waiting – anticipating the light (and the rain), still waiting.

An approach, an embrace, a hello - then to work – the result ‘Strom Tree and Rainbows’ – a glorious moment.

A complete soaking, as payback, on the way back to the car - a small price to pay.

The image took me about a year to display and promote as I thought no-one would believe it – they did, thankfully, and it has been fantastically well-received ever since.

An interlude of three years – children grow, hair greys and business develops – then came the winds, the massive destructive and damaging winds here in Galloway of December 2013.

Power was lost, roads were closed and the village became cut-off briefly due to many, many fallen trees.

Then came a conversation, a conversation with a knowing friend, who mentioned that ‘it’s a shame about Storm Tree’, (many now knew her as Storm Tree), ‘ a shame she’s gone!’ Gone? What? No?

A clarification to ensure that we were talking about THE Storm Tree – we were and she was gone - gone with the wind!

A sadness, a loss – and a need to revisit, to pay respect and to say thank you.

There - fallen, broken and smashed is ‘my’ tree – ‘Storm Tree’.

Paying respect was quite straightforward as she appeared to be lying in state – just as, across the other side of the world, another great elder statesman was lying in state Nelson Mandela – the two were linked, in my mind.

Two great structures, two great symbols and two great losses – both very different but to me the resonance remained.

Enjoy trees, hug trees, love trees but most of all protect and cherish trees.

Phil McMenemy

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