Winterscape : The hidden tree

photo: Gill Henwood

Gill has been reflecting on her photo and what it has revealed about the Conifer/Christmas tree in background.

Revelation of the tree

The ‘Christmas tree’ (see above) has been hidden within the linear wood along the lane for a century or so, quietly growing upwards. Surrounded by vigorous sycamore, oak, beech and lower wych elm, the Christmas tree has gradually, slowly, reached maturity high in the canopy. 

Unnoticed by those who walk below while the deciduous trees are in full leaf, for they spread their branches and budding twig tips to catch the sun in every space, the Christmas tree has pierced through to the light, with a trunk straight and strong.

Throughout the decades, lower branches have been left behind – only the top half of the tree has needles now, the ridged bark of the trunk is bare. We have walked past, day by day, or driven up the lane, rushing past. Only now can we stop, look up and realise how our tall our Christmas conifer towers above us. Hiding in plain sight, revealed through the winter beauty of the  bare skeletal trees.

We can’t reach up into our Christmas tree to decorate it with baubles and candles. No ladder or steps can scale her height. S/he stands proudly wild, independent of human intervention, glorying in natural majesty. But the frost crystals settle on her needles, and the snow dresses her branches. The little birds flit in her shelter, glimpses of red breast or blue head, flash of white wing bar or red crest – these are our tree’s lively colours, as the flocks flutter up from foraging in the fallen leaf litter below.

S/he may have cones that will catch the snow too. They are secret, only for the seed hunters to find. And if the sun shines while s/he’s decked with crystals, s/he’ll sparkle in refracted rainbow colours.

Our Christmas tree is decorated from above, through frost, snow, light, birds and the many creatures living and moving through her shelter. God’s joyous blessings, given in creation of our natural world – a world we rush through and pass by, often failing to notice until we stop, and let ourselves look up.

This Advent, may each one of us find the gift of stopping somewhere, and receive God’s blessings as our Christmas tree receives – quietly, often hidden, but courageously growing towards the light. Light of the World, revealed in the mystery of Christmas… And as I reflect, the barn owls next door are screeching as they set off in the starlit dusk to hunt through the trees down the lane. Sometimes they perch in the trees, spying movement, watching. They are rarely seen, just a white shadow when flying, but their song – a screech – tells us they’re in the trees every evening. Perhaps one of them will perch in the Christmas tree tonight, waiting for the moon to rise in the clear, freezing sky

[Gill Henwood]

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