The sudden and most noticeable change in woodland shade arrested my cautious approach. Motionless and with a certain unease I raised my eyes to the vaulted canopy of a giant beech. A rabbit mooched to my left as momentary distraction before disappearing behind one of many lichen-shrouded timber carcasses so clearly of pre 1987 vintage that littered the woodland floor.
I let the tool of my trade slip silently from my shoulder just as a grey squirrel appeared at the entrance to the most attractively positioned retreat this Category 'A' Woodland Offender could wish for. As I inched forward to gain a clearer view of the huge trunk the full beauty and attendant 'mood' of this noble woodland sentinel took me unaware. Never before had I experienced a tree with such exposed tentacle-like root structure that seemed to range in every direction in proportion to its height until disappearing beneath the Greensand Ridge and, I imagined, onward until connecting Earth's core.
Fantasy indeed but wholly in keeping with elemental woodland forces and what they may convey to a soul left ajar as a "third meadow" portal. Many similar musings flitted across my consciousness in what were seconds to the clock but no less an eternity. Perhaps none more pertinent than the realisation that I, like so many before who crave an eloquent silence, may indeed reach out to grasp the infinite yet even with the earthing rod that is Mother Nature, one’s hand returns but moistened by the truth.
Returning to the important woodland management task at hand albeit with a new-found calm not easily conveyed, the chainsaw’s cough broke the silence as woodchip flew and clearance work continued. The startled and thick of pelt grey rodent scuttled over exposed and polished root then peered from behind a single emerald fern before disappearing. The saw cut deeper and with no less regard for discharge of duty than upon any other such command but there was one difference, for in those preceding moments I had found what can only be described as a woodland soul-mate not of Flesh but rather the organic heartwood comprising my now *fallen "Octopus Tree" that for 24 Autumns shared the caress of sun & moon and brought warmth to a sometimes frost-rimmed soul.
(*Note: In early June 2013 the largest section of remaining trunk gave way some 15ft from the base. I found it no more than the day after, judging by the freshness of leaf. I wept.)