Simon Dorrell

Simon Dorrell

Simon Dorrell
Broken. An apple tree in Pan's Orchard. Ink and gouache. 16.5 cm x 23 cm

The eyes of my house stare out, towards every point of the compass, at trees.
Trees in their hundreds.
And who knows how many million, billion, trillion leaves?

Seven steps from the door, I enter the ragged remnants of a wood. It was planted as a brake to stall the sometimes fierce breath of Wales and a hundred winters later its dark places and unexpected pools of light are enough, still, to test the dogs as they career clumsily through the undergrowth. The birds are startled into sudden conversation in the very tree-tops.

One backwards leap for a squirrel to the walnut tree - fifteen years ago one of four trees - now one of four hundred planted here. In so few years of growth they have grown (despite the nagging of rabbits, stripping of squirrels and the nonchalant vandalism of deer) from whips to giants that now shadow the path down to the river. It's banks are crowded with crack willow and goat willow and alder, white poplar and ash; a meandering avenue that I could walk for a week of days until I reached the sea. A diversion in the lee of hedgerow hawthorn and blackthorn and native dogwood leads past a child's drawing of a perfect oak, hard by a field gate, to a derelict orchard: the forlorn trees brought to their knees by indifference and neglect.

Above, aloof, the beech in their woods raise their ramparts on the steep, uncultivated, hillsides. Turning, I cast my mind's eye back to my extended family of trees;  particularly to the ailing alders, fighting disease and losing, as are the ash now, as did the old horse chestnut that stood beside the bridge. It was the most beautiful tree I ever met and grew to love. It is long gone now. But its boughs, outstretched, and its hand-like leaves reach out to me across the years. Still. Still now, too, that corner of the field.

Somewhere in the valley, the sickening song of a chainsaw chills the air.

I look back at the beech.
Their resilience disarms me.
And yet, they are so fragile. So vulnerable.
And all I can do is stand with a pencil in my hand, and draw.

Simon Dorrell
An alder in winter, Stapleton parish. Ink and gouache. 25.5 cm x 18.5 cm