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The Ash Tree - lisatuttle — LiveJournal
The Ash Tree
I've been thinking about ash trees a lot recently, for the obvious reason -- ash die-back crisis, possible extinction event looming.

There was an ash tree in the backyard of the house I lived in for about the first twelve years of my life, and because my parents bought the house as it was in the process of being built, I suspect the tree was about my own age. I always loved that tree -- it was the first tree I ever climbed, and the only tree big enough for me to climb in the general area. Other memories connected to it include a pinata hung from the lowest branch for a birthday party, and the way the leaves curled up as they died and fell, some of them becoming fragile brown rings that I would (briefly) wear on my fingers.

The memory of that tree was the reason I chose to plant an ash sapling in our back garden in Scotland the same winter that our daughter was born. I imagined it would be a good climbing tree for her...but in fact it remained quite small, with high slender branches, for far longer than I had expected, and she never did climb it. (She wasn't much of a tree-climber anyway.) Someone could, possibly, climb it now, but they would have to be a good bit more monkey-like than I am, and not weigh too much. Gazing out at it (it is, finally, after two decades, taller than the house, but still very slender and somewhat spindly) I finally realized ("twigged"? would that be the word to use here?) that I don't actually know if American and European ash trees are the same. When I checked an encyclopedia, I found a listing of fourteen different varieties that grow in the western and south-western United States. So...they all belong to the genus Fraxinus, but otherwise have their differences.

Although it didn't register with me until more recently, there's also a deeper family connection to this tree, as my great-grandmother Eugenia (that's her picture above) was born Eugenia Ash. Her father's family came from Maryland, and prior to that I have not been able to penetrate, but his Ash ancestors most likely came from England. The surname "Ash" in Old English would originally have signified "dweller by the ash-tree".

Here's something else I didn't know when I planted it (and I bet my parents didn't either): "...it was once considered to have a benign influence on the newborn. ... Long, long ago there were probably several ritual acts practised in honour of the ash, for its benefits and uses were numerous and diverse, unsurpassed in its values by any other tree." (from WARRIORS AND GUARDIANS: Native Highland Trees by Hugh Fife, Argyll Publishing, 1994.)

Of course, the world-tree of the ancient Norse culture, Yggdrasil, connecting heaven and earth, was a gigantic ash tree.

Current Location: Argyll where the Ash grows
Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

3 comments or Leave a comment
mevennen From: mevennen Date: November 26th, 2012 02:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love ash trees, but here on the Somerset levels they spring up like weeds and we are continually having to get rid of young ash saplings. It is dismaying to think that they may go the way of the elm - 40+ years ago I went to school in Elmbridge Road, and then it was a descriptive name...
lewis_p_bear From: lewis_p_bear Date: November 27th, 2012 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Given we have lost the Elm it may be only the Oak which keeps Puck here.
At this point the mythology gets a bit muddled (for "a bit" read, enthusiastic kitten with a ball of wool all to herself) but on the whole The Bear would rather keep him.
Let us hope some bright bugger finds a way to stop the rot.
thefirstalicat From: thefirstalicat Date: November 28th, 2012 02:02 am (UTC) (Link)
I love the look and feel of ash trees, but never saw them much in California where I spent a lot of my life. My family name is an old Cornish word for "tree" or "forest" and my mother's maiden name was Greenwood, so I've always felt sort of tree-connected by birthright, but I'm afraid that I don't know them as well as I'd like....
3 comments or Leave a comment