John Allotment

Today I had a day of trees.

Walking to the park with Felix, my heart juddered as I saw that one of the huge elms on Hartington Road had been felled. I assumed that it was because its enormous crazy roots had messed up the pavement, but when we reached it I could see that the entire inside of the tree was hollowed out and rotten, killed by Dutch Elm disease I think. You could see right down deep into the bottom of the tree, like a cavern. It was full of huge white fungi. Felix hugged it and kissed  it goodbye.

Then I went for a session with Paula the artist who is making me a huge tattoo of a tree on my back. It was good. In the breaks between bursts of tattooing I looked at a graphic novel about tree protest that I have just re-discovered. I am thinking intently about the Newbury protests, and the ten thousand trees which were killed there. I feel like I am obsessed, haunted. Ten thousand trees, ten million trees, ecocide. I am desperate to create my show and feel lost in the process of making it. I want to build a treehouse.

After the tattoo appointment I swept home on the bike and picked Felix up to take him up to the Whitehawk Community Food Project before dark. It is the most beautiful place in my world, up there.  We went and hung out with the chickens and dug in the earth. John Allotment came with a barrowful of fine soft topsoil he had gathered and carefully sieved, and he let me help him me plant a peach tree in one of the big holes. He touched its roots like he was stroking the fingers or hair of a loved one. He separated them out and gently immersed them in the soft soil, slow, meticulous and tender. He spoke to me in a low voice as he worked, explaining every step in the process.  He is my age but he has the earth wisdom of a true elder. I feel humble and childlike around him. We planted the peach tree as the light petered out and the site grew dark and Felix ran after a giant black dog. A blessing.

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