Stump Watch for January 2011 (and a Fallen Oak, by Flora Thompson)

Well, here we are again.  The Stump in January:

Can’t you just feel the latent power – the force that through the green fuse drives the flower – poised to explode into life and revive the earth? No, I’m not sure I can either, but I have every confidence that the stump has it in it.

Here is another, less prosaic, description of a fallen tree in January, taken from a series of articles (a Country Calendar) written by Flora “Candelford” Thompson for a journal called the Catholic Fireside between 1916 and 1928.  Perhaps, when Helen Hunt Jackson has finished her annual cycle, extracts from Thompson’s Calendar might make an adequate replacement.

“The poor bird [an owl] was probably homeless, for the workmen had been busy close by all the week,and had brought down, amongst other trees, an immense hollow oak trunk, which had been the headquarters of its kindred from time immemorial.

I turned aside to look at it.  Very melancholy in its fall and decay, it lay across the mossy path, a mere shell of a thing.  After its life of a thousand years or more, it must have stood stark and rotting in the earth for centuries, for all around the platform of its pollarded head were little terraced gardens, bird planted, springing with ferns and mosses and honeysuckle and briar festoons, the latter so long established they fell almost to the earth and draped the naked trunk like a head of hair.  The secret chambers where the owls had nested were open to the day; wads of hay and wool and feathers were strewn upon the earth around.  Amongst them were more ghostly relics, masses of small bones, pellets of fur, and the almost intact skeleton of some small animal.

Why the particular owl I saw skulking near had not found for itself a new shelter is rather a puzzle.  Probably it had been injured in some way, perhaps by a carelessly flung stone, for, sleeping as it would be by day, it would almost certainly be at home when the housebreakers arrived.  Of its companions in misfortune there was no trace; but, as I took my last look at heath and sky to-night, there seemed to be a strangely human note of trouble and bereavement in the long ‘Too-woo-whoo!’ which sounded so lingeringly upon the frosty air.”  


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