When my hubby and I first met, we were both broke and as I had a dog, took a lot of (free) walks in the New Forest. We’d take a different route each time, and one Sunday afternoon came across an old Elm tree in a copse about a mile in from one of the quieter car parks.
By our calculations, it had a circumference of about sixteen feet, so we guessed it to be at least 150 years old. It wasn’t a perfect tree. Some branches had snapped off, and one was lying at fifty something degrees to the ground following a lightning strike. There were knot holes in it, and a few nobbly bits that from certain angles resembled a baby’s face, a heart and on the darker opposite side, a witch’s hooked nose.
Following the storms of 1989, we saw such devastation on the walk in that we were surprised to find the elm still standing, especially as so many others around it had not fared as well, some being completely uprooted and blocking the track. At one stage, we had to lift the dog over as she didn’t have the sense to go underneath it.
We decided then to ‘adopt’ this particular tree as Ours, as it seemed that no matter what the elements threw at it, it would weather the storms taking a few knocks, a bit like our lives really. We were convinced that as long as it remained, so we would stay together.
One weekend, I curled up on a bed of leaves in its roots, falling fast asleep as the dog, my hubby, and this majestic living thing watched over me. I slept for about an hour. There was a large log close by, and I awoke to find my hubby just sitting there on it, deep in thought. I don’t know what it was, but no matter how jumbled or confused my thoughts were, Our Tree seemed to represent tranquility and peace. Somehow things would fall into perspective and I would come away with a sense of well being.
Over the years, we would visit Our Tree regularly. It became important to us, and at Christmas we’d take a few decorations out to it, placing them in the higher branches. We’d touch it’s bark, feeling its unique warmth, and wish it a ‘Merry Christmas’. We never knew if anyone noticed or wondered who had placed the tinselled trimmings there, but they were always where we’d left them when we went to retrieve them at New Year.
We buried a beer bottle with a message in it during our first year, just a few lines about us (no names) and how we met. We buried another on the opposite side shortly after we got married.
Our outings may have become fewer, but we never forgot, and on a couple of occasions we took friends or family with us on our visits. They seemed to enjoy the walk, but didn’t see the Elm as we did, and so I guess couldn’t understand the significance for us or our affection for it.
As far as we know, it’s still there, however, times have changed and we are too many miles away to visit. I have photos in a collage on the wall and we both have our memories.
We have woods locally where we walk the dog every day, but there are no elms there. In fact, there are no trees anywhere that have stood out to the extent that Our Tree did all those years ago.