The last leaf on the Ash Tree did not hang like an analogy. It did not tug at the thin thread like a metaphor. It was, simply, the last leaf on the tree, at the end of a year warmer than the ones that have gone before. It does not need me to describe it into existence -it just is. Or should I say, it is now, before it drops and transitions into becoming soil.
Earlier in the year I read that ‘New-nature writing’ has become too tame. So it made me wonder what I had to offer that would not become a symbol for something else like Helen MacDonald’s Goshawk; an act of remembrance rather than a daily lived experience; or a bucolic stroll across rolling cliches.
So I break the seal around this blank space to write about a leaf, that rattles in sheeting rain, backed by a northerly breeze. November’s short days do not live in a romantic world. The tree stands in our garden, 30 cm of vitality was planted a few days after we moved in; that was 24 years ago.
Ten years ago, I cut it back to 7 feet, aiding its journey towards a pollard stump. Now I take the second step and begin to take down seven upward thrusting branches, each of 15 feet. Its too early, the sap has not yet solidified to await the coming spring. There is no sawdust, it emerges as gloppy porridge. The branch weeps; the drops run like tears down the smooth skin. I count the rings back into my past. I cast the same circles forward and I will nearly be sixty years old.
The branches come down slowly in sections, none drop onto a neighbour’s car. I know I am being watched, but from up here just for a moment I can see things differently. The buds on the twigs are like stubby pencils with which to write about Ash. Or with Arctic temperatures being 20C above normal perhaps it is the story of ash that needs to be told. The last leaf remains -neither analogous or metaphorical.