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Unto The Hills
The Rowan Tree


IT clings precariously to the side of a hill over-shadowing the Lairig Ghru; and the berries of it are fire in the Autumn, and the buds of it in Spring are like little hands closed against the light.

On a Summer night, if you listen closely, you can hear the soft feet of the wind pattering through the leaves in a dance as old as the hills; and through all weathers it stands strong and firm, welcoming alike the sunshine and the rain. It is as serene as the stars, perfect as a lover's faith, and the comfort it offers to the wanderer is akin to the comfort found in prayer.

Of course, we know that it cannot last forever; that its beauty is of the frail, ephemeral kind -- its life, in the eyes of Eternity, as the span of a butterfly. We know, too, that under the dark mould of Rothiemurchus, through which it spreads its hungry roots, lie the skeletons of forgotten forests -- trees that once clothed the hills in beauty, now rotting, layer upon layer, in the wet earth, their glory of line and leaf returned to the soil from whence they came.

And yet. . . . Out of death forever cometh life; and from the dust of their bleached boughs, secretly blended with the crumbled bones of the Pict and the ancient Gael, will spring forth the slim saplings of the eternal Tomorrow.

That is why, when I look upon the rowan tree and reflect that it will one day be no more, I feel rather happy than sad. For while it lives, it is lovely; and in death it will nourish the loveliness to come.

And I can never give way completely to cynicism or despair while I hold in my heart, as symbolic of the renewal of all beauty, the memory of this exquisite tree putting on new leaves to greet the Spring.


The Lairig Ghru, pass connecting Strathspey to Deeside, Gairngorm Hills


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