“The ash tree growing in the corner of the garden was felled. I heard the sound and, looking out and seeing it maimed, there came at that moment a great pang and I wished to die and not to see the inscapes of the world destroyed any more.”
So wrote Gerald Manley Hopkins in around 1870. Ash trees have always filled me with an up-rushing of emotion, from the graceful, sweeping form of the whole tree, through the delicate tracery of the leaves, to the rod-straight new growth projecting upwards every year from the hedgerows. No matter how brutally the farmer slashes them down, they come and come again, gloriously pale and straight against the sky.
But it is the twigs and buds of the tree that fascinate me the most – and I have drawn them over and over, year after year – usually around now, in the bleak days of February. There is clearly something in both the toughness and the promise of those hard black buds…
T.S.Elliot expressed it perfectly, as ever, in his poem ‘Ash Wednesday’:
“This is the tension between dying and birth, the place of Solitude.”
Drypoint and Monotype on Aquari paper. 7″ X 7″
Sarah Gillespie February 2013