It is no longer alive, but it is still there. Growing up, there has always been one large tree that dominates my childhood home’s front garden. I am not sure of the exact species. It is a kind of prunus, having purple leaves which would always perplex me – leaves are supposed to be green. Its presence in the garden pre-dates both my arrival and my parents’ arrival to the house. I have, however, no particular story or anecdote to give about this tree. It has always, very simply, just been there.
Every morning it would be the first thing I saw from the living room window. I cannot remember the point at which I began to distinguish it from the rest of the garden. Perhaps the point at which I could understand purple leaves as unusual. We attached one, then two birdfeeders, which have made the small garden a popular destination, the bird equivalent of free wifi. A Christmas-flash of red, white and black would tell me I had just startled a woodpecker by opening the curtains. Over time, families of jays and blackbirds have brought their fluffy young to learn how to fetch and crack peanuts on the tree, in turn passing this knowledge to their own children. Woodpigeons occasionally try, without success, to reach the peanuts, hanging precariously on branches too small for them, refusing to give up.
It is no longer alive, but the small community around this tree has remained. Returning home to my family, I see that although leaves no longer hide the daylight, its branches still reassuringly obscure the road and world outside. It may have its own silent story to tell. For me, my eyes falling on it again each morning without thinking, it simply echoes our time in its presence back to me.