As Old as the Trees

Today I’m doing housework. A bit of a shock for friends who know me well! A few weeks ago I did a wild food event for Hendricks Gin. A pop-up wild food banquet for 32 people in the middle of a field in a large tent. We filled the tent with wild flowers and roses. Beautiful, blowsy, old fashioned, decadent roses. The wildflowers didn’t last. They are creatures of the hedgerows and meadows and some will barely last a day when taken in their prime.

The roses though… the roses I took home and my house has been filled with flowers for weeks. A delight every day. I’ve watched them slowly decay and die until today, when the water in the vases has evaporated or turned into green slime, I have to admit that it is time for us to part!

They look so beautiful in the bucket as they wait for me to accompany them on their final journey to the compost heap. Crisp, withered, falling apart. So faded that you can barely see any colour at all now. Yet so exquisite in their decay.

I think of a conversation that I had with a friend a few nights ago. I was telling her about a magnificent oak tree that I’d seen in the forest. It was in a small clearing alone, as all of its generation were long since fallen or felled. Unlike the slender young trees taking their place, this tree was broad of girth. So wide it would have taken four or five of us to embrace her.

Her bark was deeply grooved and ridged. Knarled. With warty knolls from amputated branches and strange growths – bolls with little twigs growing out of them.

Mosses adorned her and long lichens trailed from her branches. A host of creatures, drawn to her shelter, were nesting, hiding, singing, resting, feeding. She supported a vast community. A mushroom at her base told a different story. The fungus from which it sprang was slowly eating away at the core of her. The heartwood. Slowly weakening her in a dance of a hundred years. That’s what all good fungi must do, prepare the trees for death. They are the bioremediators of the planet who ensure that dust returns to dust.

Yet which one of us would not chose to journey to the heart of the forest to visit an ancient spirit like her? Despite all the energetic, young trees clothes in brilliant green clamouring for a space in the light.

So why do we feel this way about old trees and faded roses, but not about old people?

Once over 50, as I am, the day comes when you know that there is less time ahead of you than is behind you. I pray that I embrace the process of thickening, knarling, fading and decaying as a privilege. To be grateful that I wasn’t felled as a sapling, that I have had the chance to become an ancient oak. No matter that like the flowers I will fade, like the branches creak and with the fungi I now head towards the earth again. I vow to try and be proud that I am no longer a beauty trying to prune myself in to younger topiary when clearly I am not.

Seize every moment. Live every second as if it were your last. Don’t wait to follow your bliss and be true to the essence of you.

When the time comes, the tree will fall. Lying in that still glade for a few years, we will return and mark her presence when looking for mushrooms. Yet they will pass too. Slowly she’ll sink into the mosses as the crust fungi help her to her rest. Covered in a mossy bed, eventually unseen. Perhaps occasionally we might remember her as we stub our toe on a stump, catch a fragrance, a shaft of sunlight, or hear her spirit on the wind that ruffles the dust.


We are strands in the web of life, not the web itself.


  1. Jennie Martin

    Beautiful words Monica. The journey to compost describe with such reverence- thank you 🍃

  2. Alasdair Kerr

    Just listened to you on out of doors Monica..will look forward to booking one of your courses in 2020 …happy new year to you


  3. sayenscangmailcom

    I’d like this read at my funeral please Mo – it’s beautiful xx

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