Planted by the waterside

Nov 27th, 2009 | By | Category: Spirituality

There is a planting of trees on the Milltown Road between Bright crossroads and Ballyhossett in Co Down. They are tucked into the fold of a hill and provide shelter for sheep from the neighbouring field in the wintertime. They are young trees, when I first met them the diameter of the trunks would have been no more than a few inches.

I stood and looked at them as I walked my dogs one evening in 1989; they seemed almost frail, too weak and immature to face the hardships of this world. But I looked at the rolling drumlin scenery around me, unchanged in generations, and thought that the dangers they would be face would be few. Barring some catastrophe, they would sit there under the cover of the hill for decades to come.

The trees would be there when I was long gone. The trees are changed little in the past twenty years; I cannot make a similar claim.

Across the valley from our house in south Dublin, the ruins of the Twelfth Century Church at Tully are visible, surrounded by a clump of trees. In the valley beneath are the ultra-modern apartments of Cherrywood, a growing township that was projected to eventually encompass 20,000 people.

Which will remain? In a hundred years time, what will still be there, the trees at Tully Church, or the apartments at Cherrywood?

What is the life expectancy of a 21st Century Dublin apartment?Judging by the news on Wednesday, not very long.

These are not Parisian apartments of 19th century, but constructions of concrete, wood and glass. Yesterday’s Irish Times reported that the roof blown from the apartment block on Wednesday morning appeared to be made from “plywood and MDF”.   Will such buildings see out the trees?

Or will the trees continue to look down into the valley as our society collapses when the oil runs out, or the apartments make way for another swathe of urbanisation as humanity finds other ways to sustain growing populations?

The 1960s protest song was mistaken in suggesting people were as immovable as trees

We shall not, we shall not be moved.
We shall not, we shall not be moved.
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water side
We shall not be moved.

The words of the song overestimated the human power to remain and underestimated the staying power of the trees. The trees across the valley will certainly outlive the human inhabitants. The Psalmist had the relative longevity of trees and humans in perspective.  Trees remain, he says in Psalm 1

Being blessed is like being as constant as a tree,
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.

While in Psalm 90, being human is to fade away

The length of our days is seventy years,
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

In their respect for the trees, in the almost magical qualities with which some trees were invested, maybe the ancient people of Ireland had a deeper understanding of reality than we have achieved in the 21st century.

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  1. I think the trees will remain unless some nitwit chops them down to build apartments!

  2. Bungalows along our road that were bought for building sites because of their extensive gardens have fallen derelict and it has been amazing to watch how quickly nature has been overgrowing the places!

  3. There are a lot of forces exerted on roofs in high winds, which have huge lifting forces. If the roof has not been fixed and strapped correctly then it will lift off. I wonder how new builds in Ireland are monitored..are the developements regularly inspected. Over here we have warranties covered by inspections from NHBC and building control inspections from NHBC and Local Authority….

  4. There are full monitoring procedure here, which made it all the more alarming!

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