Category Archives: Festival of the Trees

Haiku/Tanka! #14 June 2011

Magnolia Exmouth

holding the flag high

they march taller than


the heady aroma

of summer magnolias




Today I read a post about appreciating and writing tanka in Red Dragonfly’s blog. It should have carried a health warning, something like, Read it at your peril: you will be tempted  to write tanka for the rest of your day(s); or, Read and risk tanka obsession! Something like that to warn its readers of adverse effects. My own first reaction was to write my daily haiku – which I write participating in the Facebook community’s NaHaiWriMo project extension – as my first ever tanka! The day’s prompt had been ‘flags.’ I got carried away, you see. Tongue in cheek, I posted it in the NaHaiWriMo facebook site for the good folks there to see! I only hope Melissa doesn’t see my first attempt!

If you like living dangerously though, do read the post about tanka. It is a tanka beginners’ dream: informative and with a number of good links. So, tanka? I’ll try to do that!


My trees

peach tree
Peach Tree

Suzi Smith, of Spirit Whispers, hosting this month’s Festival of the Trees, asks  us to think of trees which make us tick, inspire us, which get the metaphors flowing. Well, there is no question, for me there are three trees: the lemon, the fig and the olive. (earlier posts here and here). I wrote a novel with the lemon tree in the title as well as in the centre of the main character’s home; a poem about olive trees, which won second prize in the inaugural edition of Big Pond Rumours Poetry Competition, 2007, and, well, the fig tree features in the novel too.

But there are others, of course, there are others. I have a peach tree in my garden, resting against the wall of the house; two pear and three apple trees; a plum tree, various conifers, and a yew, in addition to my three lieblings! If you knew the size of my garden, you would understand that fitting so many trees in such a small space is no mean feat – but I simply enjoy having trees in my garden: sitting under them, watching them grow, flower, and prepare for winter, harvesting their fruit…

So we established I love trees. But is there one in particular? Thinking about it for the last week, wondering which one is really the most and absolute favorite of mine,  I finally came to a decision. I made a choice. My favorite is, breath deeply, yes, it is the Tree of Life. The tree of all trees, the tree that contains all of my trees and all trees and beings and life, in a nutshell. Or is it the other way round? Is it the case that each tree contains in itself the Tree of Life, and all that it represents? I’ll let you decide.




Today, Arbor Day in some parts of the world, I’d like to share a few pictures of my trees and a few of my tree-inspired haiku and micro-poems:

trap door
the scent of lemon blossom
carried by the wind

tree of life
an olive branch was never

in the garden
a bush warbler serenades
plum tree blooms

against the fence
a forgotten willow broom

Domesday Tweet

The last fruit from the Tree of Life
picked, weighed and DNAed,
graced Kew Garden’s Eden Landscape.

[In escarp March 26, 2010]


More tree pictures in my Scrapbook here





Forest Fears

Festival of the Trees, issue 55, on the theme of 2011 UN International Year of the Forests, has been published by Jasmine, of Nature’s Whispers. It is an informative, as well as entertaining post, rich in text, visuals, and creative energy. The links are well worth exploring too, covering a plethora of work about nature, trees, forests, gardening, art, and other fascinating topics!

It also includes an alert about the UK coalition government’s plan to sell off many of the best-loved ancient forests and woodlands, and a link to an online petition to save the UK forests.

Jasmine writes:

“In the United Kingdom, the Conservative Party plan on selling ALL of our ancient forests. Once they are gone, they cannot be redeemed. In order to carry out these environmentally unpopular sales, the government is rewriting laws written in The Magna Carta that have protected woodlands and ancient forests since 1215”

 For more information about this issue please see The Guardian here, here and the campaign site here

If you enjoy walking in the forests as much as I do, if you care about the environment and the preservation of woodland, then this is the time to voice your concern and support the petition.

 You can sign the petition online here

My short story and post appear here

International Year of Forests

The UN declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests “to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests.”

Forests are vital to the lives and livelihoods of the people of this planet, to our planet’s existence. Yet, according to UN figures, deforestation continues at the rate of 50.000 square miles per year.

A number of activities have been planned for the year, including high-level panel discussions, film screenings, a United Nations commemorative stamp series, competitions, art and other public events. Look out for them here

While the launch of the Year of Forests will be taking place later, I am posting a short story grown out of the combination of the theme of the Year of Forests with that of “Silence,” a writing prompt set by participants of the “52/250 A Year of Flash.” It was first published there

I copy my short story below:


The Weeping of the Trees

Last spring, I hiked up Mount Olympus. The valleys surrounding its peaks are covered in black pine, beech, yew and tall conifers. On its slopes, vineyards spread precariously; olive trees anchor deep with their roots. Streams cascade to thirsty plateaus. No wonder the ancient Gods lived there.

I stayed in refuges, drank from the streams and breathed the pine-scented air. Cicadas serenaded me; butterflies I did not know existed covered my arms. Wolves lusted after me.

Magical. Yet, I dared not return, fearing the strange sightings and the silence: ghostly shadows appearing through the trees, gathering near water, rushing through the meadows, with a heavy, voluminous silence falling all round. At first, I did not believe my senses. Gradually, I came to expect and even look for the shadows.

Whenever I tried to touch a diaphanous apparition – as if made of smoke – it pulled back, avoiding my hand. I thought I saw it sigh, more as a gesture rather than sound, and glide away.

It was recently that I understood – and felt freed to return. The shadows are the souls of trees haunting the Olympian home of their Gods. Felled unjustly, burned in war, famine, and in ruthless profiteering, or carelessness, they return to plead with them.

Next time you visit Olympus, look for the shadows; seek this silence: If it is not disrupted by a leaf falling, a stream’s gurgle or an animal’s light footstep, know you are listening to the silent weeping of the trees.


You can find the story in 52/250, together with a number of other excellent stories on the theme of “Silence” here.

Lemon Tree Magic

lemon tree
Lemon Tree Magic

This month’s theme of the Festival of the Trees is “The Magic of Faerie Trees.”  Hosted by Salix of Windy Willow, it is an interesting if bewitching topic. If you are into magic and fairies, fine. If you are not, what can you say about mystery or magic in a tree?

On the other hand, how is it that the olive tree is capable of living thousands of years? Is there magic involved? With its strong roots surviving underground, even when the trunk looks dead, the olive tree can make a claim to magic – though less so to mystery, if the strong roots explain its longevity! Then there is its outstanding beauty: its silvery foliage, almost like a whispering cloud, fused with its ragged, gnarled, twisted trunk, providing a unique image. This tree has so many associations for me that I decided to find a space for it in my second novel, When the Colours Sing.  An olive tree in pre-alpine Bavaria! We’ll see how this strand is going to develop. But first things first.

There is the lemon tree (for which I made space in my first novel, Alexandrias 40: In the Shade of the Lemon Tree) to talk about. Glossy foliage, waxy, white-purple flowers, divine fragrance, fruit to grace any table, book or poem!

Lemon trees are said to have originated in Asia and spread in the Mediterranean regions after Alexander the Great’s soldiers brought them back from India. They are treasured trees in the Mediterranean lands. They are as important as olive trees and vines. They are vital to the health and well-being of the people living in those lands, as they have numerous medicinal, hygienic, cooking and culinary uses. From the abundant vitamin C, to the taste-enhancing addition to salads, soups, and various dishes, to decorative and aesthetic uses, to the perfume industry, lemons are most versatile.

In Northern Europe and America, there are additional associations which emphasize the lemon’s bitter taste, as in the expression “when life gives you lemons,” or the “lemon car,” referring to a defective, multi-flaw car. In a painting by Paolo Morando, The Virgin and Child, Saint John the Baptists and an Angel, Christ as a child is being offered a lemon, an act frequently associated with learning a variety of tastes and therefore being weaned off baby food.

In this sense, the lemon bridges opposites in taste (bitter-sweet), between cultural perceptions, and generations (weaning the baby off baby food). Is that a clue for interpreting the Italian, unknown artist’s painting Man and Wife, in the National Gallery of London, which has a lemon tree as a background?  

Readers’ Digest lists 34 uses for the lemon. In Alexandrias 40: In the Shade of the Lemon Tree,  there is a whole number of other uses – some surprising ones – for the lemon.  But please note: try them at your own risk!

(Forthcoming:  Alexandrias 40: In the Shade of the Lemon Tree:

18 November 2010

Festival of the Trees


The Festival of the Trees is “a periodical collection of links to blog posts and other online sites, hosted each month on a different blog.” Bloggers, poets, writers with an interest in arboreal matters post related material on their own blogs and submit the links to the host of each month’s co-coordinator. This month’s host was Arati, of the Bangalore-based blog Trees, Plants and More.

My own contribution to this month’s Festival of the Trees, I wrote some time ago. In “If Trees, then Olive Trees,” I use the olive tree, a precious, almost sacred tree in the Mediterranean, western Asia, and northern Africa countries; a symbol of peace and hope, connecting to the “olive branch,” and the sighting of land after the biblical flood.

Short, gnarled and twisted, the olive tree even looks appropriately old. It is said to live for hundreds of years, as its roots are capable of regeneration even if the trunk above ground is destroyed. Radiocarbon dating has confirmed 2000 year old trees in several countries! A tree known to be situated in the grounds of Plato’s Academy, in Athens, lived till the 1970s. An olive believed to have been planted by Peisistratus, the tyrant of Athens in the 6th century BC, is still to be found in Athens. Even older trees have been found in Israel and Arab lands, dating from 3000 and 4000 years ago. The trees of the Garden of Gethsemane are said to be dating from the time of Jesus.

In literature too, we know of several millenary trees: Homer featured olive trees in his poetry. Remember Odysseus bed?

My own poem is about putting down roots, both literally and metaphorically. You can read it here.

My novel “Alexandrias 40: In the Shade of the Lemon Tree” is also set around a tree, and it includes a number of surprising uses for its fruit. Not long now till the book is out. Watch this space.

For instructions on how to submit to the next Festival of Trees here.