WAS CHRIST’S CROSS MADE OF ASPEN WOOD?

Autumn colour at its best best at the moment

 

The brilliant yellow of the aspen, deep brown of the great beech, the brown and green mix of the oak, the tiny white bell-shaped flower and deep red berry of the Arbutus, the limes, horse chestnut, hazel, the deep red of the maple … that great pallet of tree-leaf colour at the moment.

 

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The Aspen                                              Beech
I left Gallan Eile  before 8.30 yesterday morning when it was dry but the forecast promised strong winds and heavy rain.  The very light yellow of the leaves on the aspen tree shone out in the overcast conditions.  It was believed aspen leaves trembled vigorously in the slightest breeze because of some terrible sadness or awful guilt.  It was said the guilt was because the aspen wood was used to make the cross on which Christ was crucified.  It is now known that the quivering is caused by the extreme flattening of the leaf’s long stalk.
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A little time after crossing the road into the National Park, across the park road from Muckross Abbey, the magnificent beech tree’s leaves are a deep bronze, like a smouldering heat that might burst into flames.  A chair made from the light red-brown beech wood is a prized possession for many.  I wonder might the great beech have been a young tree when monks were martyred in the Abbey.

The autumn colours are at present at their magnificent best – a best best in a number of years.  Now along the lake shore on a route that was for a while called Lovers’ Walk.  Green leaves still dominate here in the thick vegetation.  Now and again a glimpse of young Muckross oars people training, the training instructions of coaches carrying clearly in spite of the growing breeze.

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At the beginning of the Muckross and Dinis route – that runs between the Middle and Lower Lakes – a magnificent Norway maple, one of our most colourful Autumn trees.  Now most of the leaves are a bright yellow but they can range up to a deep crimson and – as our photograph on last week’s notebook showed – one leaf can have all of the colours from green to dark red.

Along the Arthur Young Trail through the most extensive yew wood in western Europe.  Further on great oaks with leaves that are now green and brown.  Near Brickeen Bridge – under which the waters of the Middle Lake flow into the Lower lake – a great display of Arbutus (The Killarney Strawberry Tree) with  its tiny white, bell-shaped flowers and its rich red raspberry-size fruit, clear evidence of its two year cycle – this year’s flowers become next year’s fruits.  Excuse the shake in the photo but by now the wind was strong.

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The Killarney Strawberry/The Arbutus

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Now I back-tracked to Jackoboy’s Walk.  The first of two elevated limestone pavement areas has the most magnificent concentration of arbutus and display of its flowers and fruits, made even more magnificent by the great panorama of the Middle Lake and Torc Mountain in the background.

From Dundag headland I walked the western and northern edge of the Arboretum.  Now the brilliant white-barked silver birch from more northern climes is bare.  I picked up a horse chestnut conker of children’s games but have yet to eat my first Spanish chestnut of this autumn.  More about that in coming weeks – hopefully.

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Now through the covered garden, skirting Muckross House and Abbey.  I had been out for five hours when I again passed the brilliant yellow aspen and got home dry to Gallan Eile.  Punch drunk and foot weary from the mesmerising range of the most brilliant Autumn colour in recent years.   An hour later there was torrential rain.

                                                                                                                – Frank Lewis

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