In the January/February 2012 issue of Orion there is an article about artist Dan Shepherd’s project, Draw Me a Tree, in which Shepherd asked people to tell him about a tree that means something to them. This got me thinking about trees that mean something to me, and about one tree in particular.
My tree is a cherry blossom. It stands at the end of a road on a small island of grass and is surrounded by pavements. This is the road I grew up on and the cherry blossom is the tree I played in. The children would climb it, fight over it, and claim it, and the grass around the tree was almost worn to mud by their feet.
I still remember how to climb it. The first foothold, a bulge in the trees trunk. Then the first branch, which I had to grab with my hands and swing my legs up on to. From there I could step up into the palm of the tree, a perfect little seat to sit in and guard the fort. Too slow and you have to perch awkwardly on one of the surrounding branches.
Cherry blossoms are loved for their display of pink petals that snow in a spring breeze, but I don’t really remember the blossom. I remember the tree more for the deep maroon of its leaves in the autumn. Spring already has its distractions, but the maroon leaves are enough to enliven a rainy, grey day. Thinking about it, I can almost hear the sucking sound of tyres on wet tarmac.