A ray of light in the darkness of despair

Today dear reader I am going to talk about my favourite tree. Before you think I have lost my marbles, something I never deny may have happened, do let me explain.

Life isn’t always easy is it? In fact in my experience it is largely like cycling through a chain of hills with lots of effort and agony going up the steep climbs, the brief exaltation when you reach the top and think you might just make it and the fleeting seconds of pure unadulterated joy as you free wheel down the other side realising the whole endeavour may have been worth it after all before all to soon the slope turns into the flat and mundane and you have to start pedalling again as the next climb looms and thoughts of how stupid and what a waste of time the whole thing is anyway take over.

My favourite tree isn’t in the most beautiful countryside, it is nothing special and to everyone else it is just a tree, that is if they notice it at all. This is because my favourite tree is right next to the busiest traffic network in Europe just off the M25 and between the M1, M40, M4 and Heathrow Aiport and I see it every day on my work or at least drive past it.

Even at 6.20am in a summers morning the motorway is usually jammed up with the soul destroying queue to join the motorway always a bit of a downer no matter how prepared you are when everyone you know is in bed or at least at home. You have no friends on the M25 except perhaps the car or truck who let you in to the stationary traffic on the motorway proper. Perhaps he isn’t a friend, maybe just half asleep or one of those people who leaves a half a mile gap between him and the next vehicle.

Driving 70 miles around London to and from work every day is always draining, always troublesome with even the normal lines of traffic just one crash, breakdown, downpour, fog patch or snow flurry away from Armageddon. 8 lanes of traffic jams, no-one in their right minds would want to do this. Is this is what I was born for? Is this the height of millenia of civilisation and decades of education I wonder to myself

Amid this chaos however is this tree:

It is always there like a dear friend. In the summer it stands out proudly in the field of corn, its’ dark oak leaves standing out against the beige crops and the blue sky. Of course trees look best when in a wood of forest but this one looks all the more magnificent for its’ splendid isolation watching over the traffic a few hundred metres away.

This tree can always be relied on to lift my spirits and like cycling down a hill reminds me that even in such a depressing start to the day that there are things to enjoy and natural beauty away from the office and commuting.

I don’t always see the tree, sometimes the view can be obscured by a long truck that queues parallel to me mile after mile. For the months of November to February I rarely see it at all due to the dark mornings and darker weather and indeed even for much of the rest of the year it is shrouded in rain and spray from the traffic. On either sides of winter I see it, barren of leaves just standing determinedly against the cold and weather and occasionally depending on the time of sunrise, lit up fantastically against the cold white yellow of the sun.

I often wonder how it came to be there. Did a farmhand 300 years ago plant it to have sandwiches under to shelter from the summer sun? Maybe a sweetheart planted it there. How come it has survived for centuries in the middle of a field, so close to London and yet it has never been cut down for wood, blown up in war or bulldozed for road building.

In mid-summer and the traffic is actually moving we wave gladly to each other, in the dark storms whether they be weather or workplace we give each other cursive glances. We know each other to well to feel the need to talk to each other when there is work to be done. When it is stubbornly enduring the weather and coldness isolated long after the crops have been harvested I look at him empathically sending best wishes and when I am stuck in the middle of a 90 minute queue I know he is consoling me.

However whether I see it or not, it is always there, my sometimes mournful, sometimes magnificent tree and companion.

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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5 Responses to A ray of light in the darkness of despair

  1. Kelli Thomas says:

    You wonder about the tree the way I wonder about all of my old stuff that I collect. Very nice post.


  2. This is very lovely, and so is your favorite tree. I have a little pansy that grows in a strip of dirt that lines the edge of curb along my house. It always makes me smile.


  3. Emilia says:

    This is one of the most moving blogs I ever read. Well done!


  4. Pingback: Short but sweet – Spring time is nearly here | Stephen Liddell

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