Monday, 24 November 2008
The Mighty Fallen
There is something elegiac about a fallen tree. The end of all those years of growth, of providing nesting places for birds and homes to colonies of various tiny insects who relied on its thousands of crevices for shelter and nutrition. The end of shading foliage in summer, the loss of a gaunt winter silhouette; and no longer pirate ship, hideaway or just a place to think for a child. This ash was recently felled on the Rutland / Leicestershire border at Stockerston (you can see the county sign just up the road), and I hope and suppose it was beyond help, rather than a hindrance at the entrance to the field. I took the photograph because we usually see trees, dead or alive, as they should be, standing proud against the sky, and I wanted to capture it before the chainsaw whirred into action in order to feed local woodburners. The scene also reminded me of Monster Field, the last publication of Paul Nash before his death in 1946. His wife Margaret had bought him a pocket Kodak camera for his trip to the States in 1931, and as his asthma took hold and he could no longer spend long periods out of doors sketching, he relied increasingly on the little camera to provide references for his paintings. You can see two of his fallen tree photographs in this book, looking like giant stick insects grazing in fields.