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Patterns in the Deep Cold

A couple of years ago, I seemed to spend a lot of nights in London on different trips, as though some strange harmonic had imposed itself temporarily on my life. Indeed, I haven't spent a night there since. A few weeks ago I left the Night Planted Orchard in the grips of February warm spell and headed for Minnesota. Minnesota was deeply cold. Cold and dry to the point that the night air scratches at your scalp and stings your lungs. There was deep snow on the ground and the temperature never rose above minus five centigrade. Long icicles formed all over the car, a thing I don't recall ever seeing in the fens.

I came home expecting to find spring. Instead I found it equally cold. Unnaturally cold for England. We had the same snow on the ground. The air scratched at me and burned me when I took a breath. Icicles grew on the car. It was as though I had physically moved from one place to another, but someone had forgotten to change the weather. 

A most strange symmetry.


Bury me deep

Let me be buried deep in this earth, between the rich black soil and the blue gault clay. Let the water which runs like blood over the clay dissolve my spirit into the greater water spirits of this land. Let my physical remains molder into the black peat, which if you look closely contains the nuggets of the future. Let my flesh go among the other shards of golden honey. Let my blood mix with the other particles of deep red blood waiting for life fusion. Let my bones become new flint. Let my the sinews of my past life thin away to the rich black strands asleep and ready to fatten and thicken into new plants, or giant trees, or wandering, snuffling flesh, or brilliant dragonflies.


The Corpse-like Copse

There is something about a grove of quaking aspens that makes you look twice. Perhaps it's the striking pale bark against the dark interior of the forest, or the uniform ranks of trunks like a small, tall army. They seem somehow apart from other trees. They meet in huddles, like gangmembers, huddled together but each individual stiff and erect. Close up they have a corpse like sheen, white touched with yellow-green, slashed with black scars. In bright sunshine their bark has a touch of white gold, or perhaps another, rarer metal. Their broken-off lower branches are framed in smooth ridges which make them look like eyes. The growth ridges on the trunks look almost like the tree is wrapped in bandages, like a mummy in a black and white movie. Saplings push up from the mountain earth, rising from a single root system. A thousand trunks, one tree, making this the largest organism on Earth and one of the oldest too. Groves last tens of thousands of years.

A quaking aspen is rightly a white poplar. Near to the Night Planted Orchard there is a grove of native black poplar, vanishingly rare now.



Snake Oil

The Hunter - not so small now - finds something in the grass. A scent that makes him unusually wary. He pads at a plantain. The high-summer, high-noon sky is brilliant white with clouds, but overlaid with a herd of deep grey-bellied rain-cows begging to be milked. The grey has turned the river to matt black oil rippled with silver. The flowers of the riverbank are reflected and inverted. Purple loosestrife hangs like lolling dogs tongues. Golden ragwort flowers, swarms of starry teasels and a late scattering of forget-me-nots are arranged like fireworks over the black water. I turn back and see the grass slither, sinuously, though I do not see the snake.


Burning Teasels

The teasels are enjoying the rain, filling the riverbanks with their stiff, spikes. Their tiny flowers bloom in a lavender precession over their oval heads, so that they look like so many match-heads struck in slo-mo purple flames.