lisatuttle (lisatuttle) wrote,
lisatuttle
lisatuttle

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.
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