Today feels like the first day of Spring this year. At the moment, it’s blue skies and sunshine, and everyone, myself included, is out walking their dog.
Along the Black Avenue, the usual suspects are out and about, including the perennial Lesser Celandine, which I suspect many folk dismiss as buttercups. They are of the same family (Ranunculaceae, and try saying that after a few pints) but they are not buttercups as most people know them. My other Spring favourite is the Wood Anemone, which is also a member of this family, but obviously has a white flower. A little further along, Coltsfoot are peeking out amongst the grasses.
Halfway along the Avenue, up to the left, is a large field that is all slope; it’s part of what forms the Liffey Valley, and so has probably been like this for thousands of years (though most likely wooded). In the rare times when we had enough snow to run a toboggan (though to be honest, most locals would have never seen a real one, let alone had the use of one), this was the field we repaired to. Anything vaguely ‘slippy’ was employed, including sheets of melamine laminate from furniture, or plastic fertiliser bags. Once you didn’t find something too successful and hit the stone wall at the bottom…
Well there’s no snow today, clearly, but there is definitely something different. The skyline has changed. In the last blow we had, a couple of trees came down. One was a chestnut in the row of trees that run up the hill, and so its loss was not as noticeable as the large ash which one stood sentinel on the brow at the junction of three fields.
This was a landmark tree (for me, anyway), and I have several photos of it somewhere in the bowels of this computer. Alas, I have a lousy filing system for a lot of my images, so I won’t delay now by trawling through hundreds of JPGs to find one of this tree in its prime. And indeed, as I surveyed the damage a little closer, I realise that I probably saw this tree’s ‘prime’ when I was a nipper, because it had rotted from the inside out.
Birds – probably jackdaws – have nested in the bole for generations. They will have to shop around this year. And that won’t be easy, as they prefer to use the same site where possible. So there must have been rot here for some time. Which is a little like this country, I’m afraid. If you are not familiar with the current Tuam Baby Scandal, then do some online searching, though it won’t do much for your humour. There are at least 14 different tribunals of enquiry or commissions of investigation ongoing in Ireland at the moment, investigating a range of issues from good old fashioned corruption to the whistle-blower scandal in the police, to sexual abuse in state care.
On one hand, you might see this as a country in a cathartic state of growing up and accepting that wrong was done in the past. Or, you could look at the spread of problems, and fact that many of them are not historic but recent events and conclude, quite gloomily, that the country is not fit to govern itself.
Anyway, that’s politics (mostly) and it’s an area I tend not to stray into. Not in this blog anyway.
When a tree has fallen, it may remain a thing of beauty and a use to wildlife for some time to come. But it also becomes firewood, and someone has already taken much of the low hanging fruit with a chainsaw and trailer. I picked my way through the heavy limbs of the fallen warrior, and jumped up onto one of the larger sections.
(FYI: you can see larger versions of these images by clicking on them)
As I made my way gingerly out onto what would have been part of the main trunk, now suspended high above the field where Holly was sniffing around, I suddenly realised I was no longer on a fallen tree but the back of a large whale, breaching from the earth below. The fissured bark had all the texture of a gnarly old Humpback. What I had thought of as a carcass had suddenly sprung into life and I was riding on its back in the glorious sunshine.
The pictures don’t really convey this, but you’ll have to take my word for it. Once back on terra firma (though this field is grazed by cattle, and as this is a gap from one space to another, the damp ground was well churned up, so terra, yes; firma, not so) I took a few ‘bones’ home with me to cut up for the stove for next Winter. And I will get back at the weekend and take some more. It’s only going to rot into the ground, or end up in someone else’s stove, so it may as well be in mine 🙂
These pretty fungi were also doing their thing along the Avenue; it will take some time before the ash that has just fallen succumbs to these, but in the end, any timber that has not been fed into a fire will get broken down by something similar to these species. It’s the way of the world.
Pilates this week was cut short by a fire call, but I had done a decent gym session on Monday morning, so all was not lost. A good 10k yesterday, and another gym session this morning. When I say ‘gym’ I really mean strength and conditioning, though even that phrase is a little nebulous. Some weights, sit-ups, leg raises… a smorgasbord of exercises designed to tone up the arms, chest, core and legs, the leg-work in particular following the IT band problems after the Hardman long distance triathlon. And later today I will get in Vibrams Run #3, and I may break my duck too, because it’s currently (whisper it!) NOT raining!