Friday, October 01, 2010

Big Tree Country Awards

September Sun crackled on Gleneagles' greens last Sunday. Pipes played on the lawn. Golfers wore dark glasses and smiles.

And in the Barony Room, contenders for Big Tree Country awards arrived for tea and cakes and to celebrate achievements such as the establishment of orchards, paths, greenhouses, and habitats for wildlife, all within Perthshire.

I was presenting the awards and was struck, as I prepared, reading descriptions of the shortlisted projects, by the magic of the season. It was a little after the Equinox, our cusp of light and dark, our balance. The night before was clear and moonlit. I'd heard the first stags roaring in Glen Lyon, gazed up at a milky way coursing the sky with a pale penumbra, and seen the Square of Pegasus to the south. Hares leapt along the road, apparently out to celebrate the moon.

On the Sunday morning I stretched from my frosted lawn over the fence into my neighbour's garden to pick one of her russet apples. I halved it across its girth to reveal the five pointed star of its seed case. I don't often try to write poetry, but the autumn constellation, the brambly sweet scents evoked by the shortlisted projects, the season's fruits, wove themselves into an 'occasional' poem to honour the 'stars' who made these projects with physical effort and community spirit. (Done at short notice and therefore probably rather ropey!)

Autumn Stars

When light and dark are halved
and swallows depart
when a winged horse leaps the sky
that’s when we seek the stars

Listen for the thud of windfalls
on orchard floors
amongst apples, plums and pears
the stars are born

They’re scouts and schoolchildren
sowing seeds and sage
hoteliers becoming growers
digging with spades

They’re encouraging birds, educating elders
and preparing spots
where ladybirds
would like to stop

They’re building bird boxes and greenhouses
pruning paths
entering forest enchantments
and giving cookery classes

Hear the fizz in stories, and fermenting flowers
in spiders’ scuttle and swifts’ squeal
the talk of golfers, grandparents, gardeners
the laughter of walkers amongst new leaves

Sweet manure, and streets in bloom,
jams and jellies, strawberry wine
cherry crumbles baking in school kitchens
the smell and taste of Big Tree Country’s finest

When light and dark are halved
and swallows depart
when a winged horse leaps the sky
we’ve found our autumn stars

Linda Cracknell
Big Tree Country Awards

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