The first child of my daughter Grace will be born any day now.
I am thinking about birth and death, about being born, growing up, growing old.
Yesterday I was at Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire, where I met this family of hawthorn trees that offered such resonance for me of the place I stand in this moment.
There was a grandmother tree, finished now for growing the new - a crone tree. She was old and sere, but still when I climbed up the bank of earth using her roots as a stairway, they were resilient and trustworthy; they didn't break or snap. They bore my weight and didn't let me down.
That was some root system the grandmother had. The trees were growing on the banks of a river full from the spring rains. The shores of the river showed signs of previous floods and torrents. The banks had been eroded, washed away in times of flood, leaving the roots of the grandmother tree all exposed. Maybe it was the repeated battering of floods that had taken her life in the end. Even so, she still stood firm, holding in place the earth where the mother tree and the child tree were growing.
Next to the grandmother tree was a mother tree. She had white blossom in her hair, like a bride. She grew at a little distance from the grandmother tree, but still within the shelter of that sturdy root system. One of the roots encircled her loosely. She had loads of space of her own to grow, but she was growing up within the circle of that tough root like an arm around her.
Beneath the protection of the mother tree's branches, at a little distance again, grew a tiny new child tree: a hawthorn baby, just starting out.
For a little while I sat in the place where floods had swept away the sustaining earth, leaving the grandmother tree all exposed, with not enough to live on, but still keeping things together for the mother and child growing under the spread of her branches. That tree had made herself entirely into a shelter, for every living thing that came her way.
I think that old tree was not a hawthorn: but she was a shelter; she was a grandmother.