Twelfth Night, Hampstead Heath

I have picked the tree back to green; the sofa is heaped with its glittering fruit.

I bought the tree in a cold street. My mother decorated it; creating by my fire belonging joy missed from her long lost childhood.

Oh dear. How her quest for the whole family twisted our winters. Decades later my mother & I again keep Christmas.

My wary sisters, still unfamilied, visited before and after, admired the dark tree rich with tinsel, angels, glass fruit of our celebration.

I have picked the tree back to green and at frostlight will carry it thick, green and resinous yet past the stiffening ponds and pile it with its slaughtered kin from other family altars.

Long before Christ, the wildwood: alder, lime and ash. We cleared it which is to say, our families did, for five millennia made cousins of us all and heathland of these hills.

Prosperity: the land’s release from pasture and pannage. The trees return crowd out the celebrated view, the enemies of distance.

First birch, the pioneer of acid soils, now oak and beech. Light and air receive structure. The trees recapture ‘here’ from hills and city, refer it to this pond, this hollow.

I’ll pack these ornaments carefully. Some of them are quite old. Next year we’ll decorate a new tree and at the winter solstice gather our family in. © 2003-13 Stephen Taylor
Permission to use quotes was neither sought nor obtained.

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