This old tree* has stood here for over 1,000 years, that’s before William the Conqueror and the Vikings invaded different ends of England at the same time. In all
those years, we humans have come and gone and one of us was a judge during our Civil War in the 1640s who grew up enjoying the shade I am currently enjoying.
I’m here on my 72nd birthday, contemplating how rapidly time flies, it just comes and goes and before you know it the young man you were has wrinkled sink. This tree flourished as part of my mother’s family travelled south with Scotland’s James the 6th when he united the two countries in 1603 by becoming James the 1st of England. When I worked in Leicestershire, I would cycle the lanes surrounding the family’s mansion in which the poet John Dryden wrote his famous works. And almost two hundred years later, this tree sent out leaves as my father’s family avoided joining the 10,000 decapitated during the bloody French Revolution, abandoning their chateau which is now a state museum near Toulouse.
This stunning being will still be here long after these fingers which type these words will be buried under a sapling in an eco-graveyard. Long after humans have conquered the corona virus this tree will continue to astound those from around the world who come to admire her and other old trees, for England has, in one London park, more ancient tees than the whole of France. Many a wondrous yew tree stands on the edge of eternity and lots are in church yards, for early Christians sought to build their churches beside the Druid’s symbols of life.
Today, all over the world we crop without thought these extraordinary plants. In the Pakistan Himalaya scientists hand out tins of kerosine to stop villagers chopping up one thousand year old deodars for firewood. In my latest book, I’ve included a drawing I did of deodars which stood when the Buddha was alive! A stand of yews near London swayed in the winds which touched those attending ceremonies at Stonehenge! Not far from our home we have stood with reverence, marvelling at a yew tree at least 4,000 years old.
Today, we who have eradicated so much, must protect these wonders, as well as all the original forests we cut down to have smarter front doors. Now, as we step out of corona-lockdown, we must struggle to create a future economy which is more in harmony with nature. This we can do. It means parking greed to one side.
Profit in excess is greed, yet we’ve been conditioned to see it as our right. It reminds me of the time my wife and I suggested that fishermen in The Maldives should release a young turtle to revive dwindling stock, their baffling reaction was typically human: “We must hurry and catch more before others make them extinct.”
That’s the madness of profit explicitly illustrated. Haven’t we done enough harm? Time, like my life, is running out rapidly.
We can still enjoy comfortable and free lives by living sustainably. Yes, I know I’ve said it before - buy local sustainable products and food, travel less, conserve heat in winter by putting on a jumper rather than turning up the heating. Working with nature we can create a fine future. Surely we don’t want to go down those ignorant old tracks again, we’ve seen they lead to the disastrous environmental cliff we now stand upon.