The old cherry tree

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Marking the boundary between the orchard known as La Pasera and the pasture known as La Vega has stood a cherry tree for as long as anyone can remember.

Spawned from the fruit of past generations, cast from the loving gesture of a young couple as they shared fruit and shaded from the late afternoon sun. The old cherry tree has lived to tell its own story, narrated through its magnificent branches, a yearly abundance of flowers and fruit, lush green foliage, twisted bark and battle scars.

The old cherry tree is known by many for its sweet, plump, juicy, red cherries. Jose the farmer remembers his father collecting baskets full of ripe and plump fruit. He remembers as a little boy, how his father told him tales of how he courted his mother like his grandfather before him had courted his grandmother and how they spent many day lounging under the shade of the tree. They would climb and chase each other through its sturdy branches and hold each other tight on a bough near the crown of the tree. They would tell of how they daydreamed as a gentle flurry of cherry blossom fell. Holding each other, warm and safe in the sunset as the fading sun drifted behind the distant woodland and journeyed on, eventually setting over La Vega.

The old cherry tree shares its magnificence with other life that is rarely seen, occasionally heard and rarely considered. On closer inspection, other worlds inhabit every crevice from the roots to the crown; for the old cherry tree. In one form or another life is abundant.

A procession of shiny black ants navigates the peaks and troughs of twisted and scarred bark, seeking out aphids, rotting fruit and nectar. The spiders wait patiently for insects blown towards their webs woven through the networks of twigs and leaves. Birds visit to rest, mate, feed, squabble and squawk and, sing. Blackbirds, jay, magpie, red start and long-tailed tits compete for the tree’s favours along with wrens, warblers, blue tits, creepers, owls and raptors. Pecking away at the rich harvest of bright red cherries, each species having its own feasting time, each moving on as their day or night unfolds.

Moths, butterflies, beetles and glow worms deposit eggs and larvae, confident in their choice of host, trusted as a nursery and temporary crypt. Emerging at times when few stir, with misty mornings providing moisture to hydrate and strengthen beating wings.

The old cherry tree is dying; its life is coming to a close. Ravaged by time, scarred by burrows and chambers that are drilled and opened by the woodpeckers as they hunt for grubs. A tree damaged by the thoughtlessness of careless builders who lit and burnt rubbish just too close for comfort. It is decomposing from its majesty with the help of fungus, beetles, larvae and woodlice. Maybe in another 10 years, maybe longer, its life will drain away, replenishing all that lives with it in its final years. A large oak has outgrown it and now invades its space, robs its light and steals it’s strength. A weak walnut tree competes for light and sustenance with both.

The cherries are still there but in fewer number and too high to harvest. The lower branches are fragile and barely support the weight of an agile tabby cat that investigates a bird box nailed high on the trunk. A black cat hunts from nearby rocks, watching for small rodents, lizards and slow worms as they secretly circumnavigate the twisted roots and hollows. In the lush grass growing around the base of the tree, toads seek snacks of snail and slugs, earthworms and flies. As each year passes, the old cherry tree becomes weaker, its frame thins and its days draw to a close.

Just out of the shade of its canopy, is growing a young and healthy cherry tree. Rooted firm on the boundary between the house and garden that occupies the orchard once known as known as La Pasera and the pasture that is known as La Vega. Maybe one day, stories will be told about it, maybe one day, as its forebear did, it’ll support a hammock strung between it and the walnut tree, swaying gently back and forth as its occupants stare up into a hundred years of history, maybe one day, our children’s children will taste the fruit and dream into the sunset.

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