I visited the New Forest in the Spring of 1988 after the hurricane of 1987 many are remembering today.
I wrote this following the visit and over the years kept amending until it became this particular version:
A Walk In The New Forest in 1988 After A Hurricane
Not overly wild and not yet fully tamed like an arboretum,
she is a sanctuary fenced off to preserve at least one of each species.
Under foot she provides a mossy padded carpet for barefoot walking and bedless lying down.
A Western Hemlock from Western Canada droops a canopy of caped graceful velvet, thick and lush in its thick stage.
Further in, dense needleless branches form labyrinthine spiders’ webs of never-ending corridors, ever-growing darker in their shadows.
The corridors are guarded by a perimeter of roll upon roll of giant Blackpool-like rock-stick: Beech wood piled up on top of log upon log of wind-torn evergreen.
Above, the spiked porcupine trunks tip over like inverted umbrellas tossed by the momentum of the breathy wind.
Below, the uprooted mounds bleed flesh-torn roots decapitated below the belt.
Then, chance upon a bomb crater, a memorial of a once upon a time more devastating hurricane.
Female Rhododendron makes a leafy cloak of closely guarded secret cover-up:
Mummy’s mopping up of daddy’s penetrating bomb;
A stagnant pool womb breeding new life in the murky stillness.
Further on, a Sitka Spruce is proudly labelled in matching green metal with White Man’s numbers: “Used to build Mosquito Aircraft” is the proud explanaton
“because it is so light and strong” the marker continues.
Tree of earth becomes tree of sky then, destined downward
gravely pulled down
and up-ripped again in wind only to be
down-axed on a guillotine.
Aircraft and bomb, tree and wind both make for devastation and rebirth if you believe in cathedrals.
One hundred thousand seeds are transported in a wooden boat across a watery sky
forever going Westwards
to raise up in the Motherland the tent pegs of that man whom some have called red
when both colour and time were simpler.
No Hiawatha treads this padded pathway
only trainer footed urban creature playing stick cricket with coned balls and rabbit turds.
Who can grow the tallest tree?
The competitors line up in their starting frames:
Temptress Honeysuckle drapes and entwines herself around the bark of one unknowing competitor.
“Like an appletree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men.
I am the honeysuckle and my lover is the apple tree,” the holy lover whispers trying to put him off or on depending on how you look at young love.
Older suckers Ivy and Oak are bound up in parasitical suckers each blaming the other for the throttling choke of so much time together
“I will tie my yellow ribbon and I will go to the ball,” they croak together battle weary from last night’s storm.
So, forest not so new,
Where old habits have died a hard death and younger ones not belonging here fail to root when we want it our way.
All of this defies organised planting.
I know, keep the arboretum for the city dwellers, like zoos and museums.
Can a forest be cultivated, should it be curated or should it just be
I mean, just let it be.
“ Roll up come and rock your baby in out tree top and see if it will fall down or stay up!”
Oh shit! the bough broke, the baby came down and like an unpredictable filled nappy made a mess all over the place and now we have to clear up and it will cost more than money, I can tell you that much.
Copyright Carran Waterfield 1988.