Most days I walk my dogs through the forest and gardens of Castle Park in Bangor. It’s a real treasure. In the early morning light the sun colours the floor, dappled and spotted, amid a riotous chorus of birds. The hard dry ground thrums like a heart beat to the sound of my dogs paws as they run and root and chase the squirrels.
In the curated part of the garden there are trees from all around the world. And on many of them the gardeners have placed small plaques to tell people like me the name of the tree and the place from which it came.
Some mornings, when I come across a new tree, I process around the base like a newly arrived pilgrim searching out the name plate for an introduction. The common walnut, the painted bark of blue gum eucalyptus from Australia, deodar cedar from the Himalayas, noble fir, grecian fir, grand fir, purple sycamore, orange bark maple from Chile. A litany of trees.
The Cappadocian maple from the Caucasus Mountains, the natural border between Europe and Asia. The sacred Red cedar or Sugi tree from Japan, which shades pilgrims approaching buddhist temples, but here lines the footpath through a park in County Down.
An enormous Monterrey Cypress, hosting a holly tree in the cleft where the trunk splits in two before it describes a huge D in the air.
Here is all the world to me and my dogs, and here too is home among the familiar oaks, the smooth paper surface of beech into whose bark lovers have carved their names, the shimmer of silver birch, the modest lime, with its skirt of broad leaves to the foot. And our own sacred yew.
The park features several giant redwood or sequoia trees, native to California but now at home here in Bangor. Enormous trees that rise up straight as an arrow, with a bole so large that four of us holding hands wouldn’t complete our circle round it.
These trees are incredible living things and this wee park in Bangor is a marvel.
Kentucky poet Wendell Berry has a line in one of his poems as a simple encouragement to us to lean into the future with a view to those who will come after us. “Plant sequoias” he says. I’m grateful for those who more than 150 years ago planted these trees for people like me to enjoy. And they challenge me still to live today with the same generosity.