I thought you might like some background information on what led me to make this piece – though I don’t normally explain my work very much, preferring people to take from it whatever they want.
I made it quickly, top speed. I had to, before the breeze blew the ash keys off the stone… before it rained… before I was disturbed by inquisitive horses, sheep or, worst of all, passing dog walkers. (I do like dogs by the way – just not the badly-trained sort)!
For some time now, I have been paying special attention to the tall strong ash, admiring its elegant compound leaves… breathing in its clean oxygen and enjoying its shelter and protection. Once, not so long ago, I just ignored ash trees – and before that I didn’t even know what an ash tree was, and wouldn’t have recognised one even if it had leaped out of the bushes in front of me. So what is it about human nature (or is it just me?) that we only fully appreciate the good things of life when we think we are about to lose them.
The Ash Tree: photo David L. Roberts
Finding a carpet of ash keys strewn along the woodland track a few days ago, my mind turned to the fungal disease that is currently threatening to destroy one of the most beautiful trees in the country: ash dieback. This disease has a potentially devastating effect, not only on the ash, so vital a part of Britain’s woodland and hedgerows, but on the multitude of insect communities, lichens and mosses that make their homes in ash trees or grow on their bark.
I am no naturalist, and it was not until I’d arrived home, that it struck me as odd to find this thick layer of immature unripe ash keys on the ground in June. Our seasons have become quite unseasonable this last year or two – with a lot of rain, cold summers and very little sunshine. And I have noticed trees and shrubs in our garden have been shedding their leaves at peculiar times too..
Yggdrasil, the inspiration for this artwork and post is known as the Tree of Life or the World Tree in Norse mythology. It is is a giant ash tree in the centre of the Norse spiritual cosmos, growing out of the Well of Urd. Amongst its roots dwells a fearsome dragon and various other unpleasant creatures. The tree supports the nine worlds, and its branches reach high above the heavens. Up at the top sits a noble eagle. Apparently, as Ragnarok approaches, and the last battle between the Gods and the Evil Forces is being fought, Yggdrasil, along with all the nine worlds is ultimately consumed by fire and destroyed.
On that cheery note, I shall take myself off for a breath of fresh air, and a long solitary walk through the Devon trees.
Here’s another ephemeral work, made with ash leaves, that I made in the autumn of last year. These works mark fleeting moments in time.