Winter Under Cultivation: On the occasion of a fallen tree in High Town

Sad news: one of the beautiful trees at the junction of High Town and Hitchin roads has fallen down, uprooted by recent storms. I am not sure when it happened exactly, but it’s gone: ripped cleanly and completely at the roots.

There is not much that can be done about it, save to mark in a very small way what I loved about the happy band of trees that have been a delightful feature of my entrance into High Town from Round Green for several years. In essence, they made me feel hopeful, and hopefulness is often in short supply in Luton (and elsewhere). While I remind myself of the short poem by the American poet, Emily Dickinson, ‘Winter under cultivation/ Is as arable as Spring’, I am not, I confess, always equal to the task of hopefulness that is required to imagine a more dynamic and prosperous future for Luton. The sudden eruption of blossom each spring – seeming so improbable – is always a surprise, and yet a surprisingly reliable token of renewal.

I had been saving the picture of the trees in blossom for a happy post about springtime, and even thought to propose a High Town Hanami when the blossoms come this year, picnic baskets at the ready to enjoy their fleeting beauty and dappled shade. While there will still be blossom this year, the former vista is unrecoverable. The drama of a fallen tree in a provincial town is hardly the stuff of tragedy, granted, but it is the occasion of a small, real disappointment.

Meanwhile, I was out by the station this morning – in the rain – handing out a small number of flyers to harried commuters to advertise my new early morning yoga classes (beginning this Wednesday). Madness, I thought, to be doing this now, to be starting with a class at an unsociable hour, during the coldest of months, in an improbable venue; madness to thrust mostly unwanted flyers into people’s hands knowing well that the majority will end up discarded and unread.

I fully expect it to be me and perhaps only one or two students to begin with, and it won’t make me any money any time soon. Certainly, it won’t begin to repay the effort and expense of training as a teacher for a long time to come. (If you’ve been wanting low-cost semi-private yoga tuition at the crack of dawn, there’s never been a better time…)

I walked back via Marjorie’s, which these days is open mornings only (7.30-9am, I believe) and at other times ‘by appointment’ (ie. for private hires and one-off events). I found café manager, Michael, whose energy in creating the Marjorie’s brand in recent months has been remarkable, uncharacteristically downcast in the face of continued slow business. I have some thoughts about the possible reasons for this, but in short I think he is right to reconsider his strategy, as he now looks to rebuild the business on a more sustainable basis. Marjorie’s is a remarkable space still awaiting what remains, for now, an improbable flowering.

Since I am evidently in poetic mood, I will end with a poem that I have loved for years (I have a framed copy in my house). The title, Sisu, is a Finnish word that is hard to translate directly, but may be understood by the ideas of determination, perseverance, and the overcoming of disappointment. It is, in short, the cultivation of a qualified hopefulness, which is something we need in Luton (and not only there). Enjoy.


To persevere in hope of summer.
To adapt to its broken promise.
To love winter.

To sleep.

To love winter.
To adapt to its broken promise.
To persevere in hope of summer.

Lavinia Greenlaw

4 thoughts on “Winter Under Cultivation: On the occasion of a fallen tree in High Town

  1. yes indeed well said – qualified hopefulnes everywhere!! Sleep well Luton but here and there get up and enjoy a fine yoga teacher…then before to long new trees will grow! Patricia

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