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Open Features: Fraxinus Excelsior

...Beech and I like similar terrain but that bossy old thing takes all the best spots. My woodland only reaches parts beech canít Ė a bit like lager in television adverts. Truth to tell I prefer isolation: corners of fields, edges of moors...

The ash tree may not be the best-looking kid on the block but it can help you find true love, as Jean Cowgill reveals in this delicious piece of writing.

OK, Iíll admit this is my posh, Sunday Ďgoing to meetingí name. If you like, when I get to know you better, you can call me Ash. No it is certainly not short for Ashley. I am plain Common Ash. Oh, dear me, nothing to do with The Plane Tree either. Iím confusing you arenít I? Iím certainly confusing myself. Iíd better start again.

Iíd like to tell you a bit about myself. My preferred home is on limestone. Sometimes I grow on the actual outcrop which can make for a hard uncomfortable life. Beech and I like similar terrain but that bossy old thing takes all the best spots. My woodland only reaches parts beech canít Ė a bit like lager in television adverts. Truth to tell I prefer isolation: corners of fields, edges of moors. These are good places for meditation. By the way Iíd like to clear up one annoying misapprehension. I am not related in any way shape or form to that little usurper who has stolen my name: Mountain Ash indeed; The Rowan is such a poseur.

I wonít go into too much personal detail. After all this is early in our friendship. Eventually you may be able to claim the keys to my heart. But I was really shocked when a pesky botanist accused me of sexual confusion. My preferences are a personal matter. Admittedly some years I produce all male flowers and other times all female, occasionally I form both together. Confusion indeed! You only have to look at my shiny black buds to know that Iím a female who likes her nail varnish.

Do you have trouble with grown up children who will not leave home? After school or university they hang about the family house because they canít afford to buy property. Apparently it is something to do with the credit crunch whatever that is. I have exactly the same problem. My wretched keys stay on branches all winter. In spring, when they do decide to go, they get carried far and wide. No chance of any help for me in my old age.

Actually I donít usually produce any offspring before Iím thirty years old. A respectable notion donít you agree? I canít be doing with the idea of teenage pregnancy. I stop growing at the age of one hundred. If Iím lucky Iíll manage to get a telegram from the ĎQueen of The Woodsí on my quarter millennium birthday.

I am not very keen on talking about an after life but I do have my uses. I make excellent firewood; naturally it seems a bit of a waste I would prefer a more distinguished end. Iím known to be very strong and have little flexibility (you should hear me when I start on politics). I make excellent oars, snooker cues, hockey and hurling sticks. In the latter two games, when contestants are bloodied and bowed, Ďthe clash of ashí is a phrase I hear. At one time I was widely used for making longbows. This doesnít sit well with peace loving me.


Iíll give you a little blast from the past. People used to think that the opening of my buds, those sexy black items referred to earlier, could predict the weather. They used to recite this little ditty:

Oak before ash, in for a splash
Ash before oak, in for a soak.

If this were true there would be many years of drought. Iím one of the last to burst into leaf, I invariably follow oak. Mother Nature thinks Iím slow on the uptake.

Iím not one to boast but the first man was created from the branches of my ancestor. God fettled about making a human being from powdered ash. Some people suggest it was oak but I have my doubts. There, however, another side to my Ďashtoryí. When Christianity came to Northern Europe the Scandinavian gods were turned into witches. Personally I think they had as much credence as their usurper. Because I empathised they chose me to become their special tree. People were afraid of my power and used to bring me offerings on Ash Wednesday. Sadly that hasnít happened for a quite a while.

Now Iíll let you into a secret. Iím pretty good at telling the future especially in matters of the heart. If any woman places an ash leaf in her left shoe she will find her future spouse immediately. Iím afraid the downside is she may end up with an ugly or not very nice person but I reckon itís cheaper than going on the internet.

Iím really cross, a cross ash you might say, about someone stealing my Ďashtoryí. Do you know the folk song ĎBarbara Allaní? Two would-be lovers die and are buried next to each other. Out of one heart grew a rose; out of the other a briar. What plagiarism is this? My ancestors tell me the true story is set in Norway. Axel Thordsen and Fair Valdborg also happened to be buried close together with an ash tree planted on each grave. The trees grew to the same height and their branches became entwined. Next time you hear some American drivel, whether a song or from a politician, think on the truth.

So, in summary, I may not be the best looking kid on the block nor the quickest off the mark. I donít form huge forests nor do I dominate the landscape but I can offer you an alternative life style. Believe in me and learn my ancient secrets and I can help you to find true love.

**

To read more of Jean's articles and sories please click on http://www.openwriting.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=jean+cowgill

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