The cherry tree (with apologies to Housman)

I’ve long been struck by the saw (old saying) that says a dead tree is more alive than a live one. Which is why I’d been reluctant to take the other kind of saw to the cherry at the bottom of the orchard even though – to misquote Housman – of my three score years and ten it wasn’t going to bloom again. At first I hoped it had succumbed to some temporary malaise and that the following Spring would turn slowly green via a drift of baby pink confetti as it had done every April for the 22 years I’d lived at Crosshands. But now I’ve been hefted to this Shropshire spot for 25 years and instead of dropping leaves it’s dropping branches. It was the smaller ones at first. Twigs really. Sapless stick-fingers the first to dry and brilliant tinder for the wood burners we’re still lighting (in late May) to keep the latent chill of the clay earth from creeping up the solid cottage walls. But now the bigger branches are falling too, threatening the limbs of those whose lifeblood is still rising should they be unlucky to pass underneath at the wrong moment. Which, statistically, may be unlikely but a chance increased because the tree is on the path to the compost heap – a part of the plot frequented more at this time of year than in winter. Rhubarb leaves and the less malignant weeds piled on top (we burn the really persistent ones like dock and dandelion); sweet-smelling mulch to nourish this season’s vegetables pulled from the bottom. An eternal cycle of death and re-growth. And a handy home for hedgehogs.

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