I was on my way to Brockwell Park in London, where inside a walled garden in a public park ( where but in London would you find a walled garden inside a public park?) was a teaching apiary. It was possible to observe the beekeepers and the hives through a plexiglass barrier. One beekeeper, the master beekeeper was demonstrating procedures to apprentice beekeepers. I was watching carefully, a bit astonished, never having seen people in suits opening hives and handling them so brusquely. I had been trained and worked with hives without using a beesuit.
A little girl was watching but seemed uninterested and I asked her “ Aren’t the bees marvelous?” “Oh” she replied “I hate bees” and then I began to tell her stories about bees and ask her questions and she became more and more open and amazed. Her brother came and eventually she brought her youngest sibling to meet me. Meanwhile there were various people coming and going…one man who knew the other beekeepers stayed behind and I felt drawn to him.
We bantered back and forth- he was very sweet and ensured that I would be able to do my bee conversation drawing without getting shut in the garden as it closed. He told me about some special trees in Corram’s Fields.. The next day I went to the British Museum to see some of Mary Delany’s collages of flowers and walked over to find Corram’s Field. I found a gatekeeper who told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t permitted entrance unaccompanied by a child.I made a little quip about not having them with me but having many children in my life. That did not result in an open gate.
I took a leap and showed him the three other tree conversations I had done that day in other London parks. He sent me to his supervisor who turned out to be a 19 year old man filling in for the ‘real” supervisor. I showed him the drawings. Perplexed he sought the advice of the gatekeeper. They both shrugged their shoulders and I was permitted to enter.
I chose one lovely plane tree near a large day care. I settled in and discovered a being of great joy and tenderness,children had attracted a being with Christ presence. The rainbow was present and a clear light. A man and woman approached me while I worked and asked me how I felt about the impending decision to cut down some of these trees. I was saddened to hear that was being considered.
I was touched and aware of how ,in London, the trees have a unique presence, very awake, in service to a compassionate presence and warmth. In reflecting on it, perhaps Londoners are able to touch and feel love through trees more readily than through human beings. I went from Corram’s fields to Brunswick Square which is adjacent.
That is how on August 5th 2013 I was standing beneath the generous canopy of the Brunswick plane. ( Time Out “Great Trees of London” ) This tree had a girth so wide that I could walk around it and feel the circle of 8-10 people who would be able to hold hands around it. I’d found this tree thanks to a suggestion made by the beekeeper I met in the urban apiary in Brockwell Park. Throwing caution to the wind I had told him that I had “conversations” with tees and also with beehives for that matter.
This tree was receptive and enthusiastic and we began a fluid,imaginative, open and joyous exchange. After a short time the skies opened and rain poured down. With faint optimism I wrapped myself in my woolen shawl and tucked the sketchbook into a generous cavern that was formed in the trunk by the roots. The space was large enough to fit the paper inside and kept it dry. I waited and waited. The canopy of leaves was enough cover at first ; but gradually my shawl was soaked as were my shoes…and I had to admit that I would not be able to finish this conversation.
I fell in love there that day…with the Brunswick Plane, the old world, the new world, fairy tales, London and the beekeeper in the walled garden. I would have to come back the tree suggested helpfully.. I would have to come back.
“There would be no second chance” I thought to myself as I was leaving London the next day. I made my way back to my room in South London- very damp and a bit saddened to leave this beloved tree. I had made an important connection and lost it all at once?! I felt a reassurance from the tree that I could always “return” to visit. I thought of that metaphorically at first that in my heart, thoughts and feelings I could visit, so I let it go. Over the year I would , from time to time show people my tree conversations and this one would arouse in me a longing to re-meet this tree. Through the autumn and into the winter I corresponded with the beekeeper that I met in August feeling more and more a need to go back to London to spend time in person with him, he had guided me to this tree. In January I booked a plane ticket and began to look for accommodation in London.
A friend who had become close after years of morning walks together with our dogs had a friend with an apartment in London. I made enquiries to see if it might be available in May. At first it was free for the first two weeks and then the whole month! Lovely! I met with the owner and received the key and a map, hand drawn showing the important landmarks around the apartment. There just down the street was the name Brunswick Square and lo and behold…it was the home of the tree who had invited me to return. I would be living a few blocks away from this tree for a month!! I would be able to return repetitively to have conversations!