Thursday, 11 December 2008

boughed but not broken

I've been expressing for some time my despair about the passing of this paradise we call home, the way we Westerners are taking life on earth to the brink, through living lives that we have come to see as 'normal'. Writing about staying sane in an insane world, my friend Philip Carr-Gomm calls it a 'peculiar kind of discomfort: like dishonesty it produces a split in your awareness it's as if we're all living a kind of lie that at some moment will get found out and will bring the world as we know it crashing down around us.

I'm intensely aware of the discomfort and grief of being 'the destroyer', and yet such beliefs, I rudely realised last week, can and do turn into illness. The day I found this out, I walked out of the clinic and was stopped in my tracks by a row of mature golden-leaved trees in Brighton's Preston Park. They are the last to drop their leaves and the winter sun lit them up like giant candles. They blazed out splendidly at us. We approached one very ancient one in the middle of the park, and I realised they are elm trees. I remembered reading that these elms are among the few in this country that have survived Dutch Elm disease, because of the protection of the Downs. I sat beneath this gnarled old tree, its trunk at least 20 feet around, and looked up in to its feathery branches. In that moment I also wondered whether Nature is perhaps not so predictable, to have saved a secret cache of noble trees; perhaps it's arrogant to presume that life might not be able to sustain itself.

Elm is the remedy, according to Dr Bach, for 'people suffering a temporary loss of self-confidence due to the overwhelming amount of responsibility they have taken on. Genuine Elm types are people who are successful and carrying out work that they believe in, but at times feel the weight of the charge on them and become depressed and concerned that they will not be able to go on.'

Further along the park we encountered the Preston Twins, the world's oldest elms. They are hollow, only the outer core remaining to hold up life and limb. Dirk and I eased inside one, surrounding ourselves with warm, ancient, resilient life, oozing dark sap and secret musty smells. Even in the darkest hour, life prevails.