Monday 24 May 2010

From tiny acorns

One of the things I really like about this Blog is that it forms a sort of conversational backdrop to my life. I'd had a plan for this week's posts, but then a combination of Charlotte's post about the walnut tree, and the "Deadly Resistances" week sent my mind off in a different direction.

In 1987 I was still at school, and lucky enough to be at a school with lots of playing fields and a great number of huge and very old trees. My favourites were the oak trees, which were truly enormous and each Autumn dropped more acorns than could be easily counted.

During the Great Storm of that year, we lost many of those great trees, and, a year or so later, I got it into my head to plant an acorn as a way of replacing one of the trees that had been lost.

I went to see my biology teacher, Mr H. He was a great teacher, clever, passionate, irreverent and iconoclastic; one of those teachers whose lessons stay with you throughout your life. But, on this occasion, he shook his head and said "No" it can't be done. I can't remember the exact reasons; I'm sure they were rational and sound, based on science.

But whether it was arrogance or sheer bloody-mindedness, I decided to ignore him. I stuck four pins in the acorn and suspended it over a cut of water, the way you do if you're trying to grow an avocade from its stone, and waited for the acorn to sprout.

Four weeks later, in early December 1989, a tiny root appeared. A year later, I planted the six-inch sapling out at the bottom of Mum & Dad's garden. Twenty-one years later, the tree is probably three times taller than me, and, all being well, and if it takes after its parent, it will still be there long after I'm gone.

For me, it's become a metaphor for what can actually happen when you go ahead and do what conventional wisdom tells you cannot be done.

Which is why, despite all the deadly resistances we talked about last week, despite guilt, sloth, lack of time, denial - people telling you it can't be done - and our own conditioning, and all the many more things we could have written about - despite all these things, amazing people all over the world are doing amazing things to make the world a better place. Planting trees, raising crops, tending bees, learning skills, sharing and helping each other in all sorts of ways. It's all got to start somewhere.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Jon,

    That is such a great story! Once I went to a talk by the nature writer, Richard Mabey (Beechcombing). He said one of the good things people learned from the Storm was that trees regenerate if you leave them alone. Most of the trees that blew over that year were sawn up, but some were left to their own wild devices and began to grow again.

    As another tree lover, the writer John Fowles(The Tree) said, contrary to popular belief, most creativity comes out of people being left alone to figure the world out for themselves . . .

    With best wishes,