With the mistletoe

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With the mistletoe

 

A few years back I went on a walk with my father. The Avon was running with its usual mild ferocity, neither fast nor slow, the kind of course that trances you, movements so synonymous to your step that you may just as well be in the flow itself.

‘Mistletoe,’ my father said, pulling me from the river. ‘Do you see? Up there in that poplar.’

I turned my gaze to the bordering forest. ‘I’m not sure what I’m looking at Dad.’

‘Mistletoe, there,’ he pointed once more, beyond the dark trunk of a nearby poplar and its splaying limbs, high into the tree’s canopy. ‘You see those balls of foliage?’

I nodded. ‘That’s mistletoe?’

‘Yes. It’s a parasite, feeds off the nutrients of the host tree.’

I was amazed. What had always been a showpiece, hung from the rafters of a wintering home, was now alive, bathed in the inspiring light of context. I had never known its place in the world, merely assumed. What a marvel it was to see that mistletoe, hanging from nature’s very own rafters. From the ground, in the safe arms of my subconscious, I climbed towards it– climbed upon it, examined its contours, its berries, its leaves, its parasitic tendrils rife upon its host. 

Valley of Rocks, Exmoor National Park, England

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Valley of Rocks, Exmoor National Park, England (Jake Graham Photography)

Up the eastern flank of the turreted ridge, we scrambled, without thought, for the moon. Yet, upon arrival, and far from lunar discovery, we fell once more in love with the Earth –  ocean before us, moorland behind, and a slab of rock, strong and definite,  beneath our feet.

Hornbeam amidst the moor

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Hornbeam amidst the moor, acrylic on card (Daniel Graham)

Amidst the great open moorland there stood a hornbeam, its limbs reaching out for winter. The air was cold, and with this chill I felt my cheeks tighten. I walked towards the tree for some minutes, first entering its breathing ground, and then, a minute beyond that, its lichen-stippled trunk. I sat beneath the hornbeam’s brittle wood and listened on as three crows came to rest above my head, their movements knocking small twigs to the ground around me.

A bowing sea – Norfolk, England

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A bowing sea, Norfolk, England (a week of walking along the Pedders Way and the Norfolk Coast Path)

And guiding us on, through the rain and cloud, was a light as clear as any.