Horse chestnut trees, Pangar in local dialect, are Nature’s poster trees for the seasons.
Stark, bare twigs for winter, Ruby red and mauve foliage for spring, Dense green and brown polka dots for monsoon, Flaming gold for autumn. The kitchen window frames an old, elegant Pangar tree. The first cup of tea, the first peep at the dawning day, the last rays of the evening, the last cup of tea..the tree, with its changing colours and textures, is there to greet me.
This monsoon, however, the old matriarch has slipped and tilted towards the building. The roots are gouging out the cemented ground and its only a matter of days before she comes crashing down and damaged balconies, windows and parked cars. Emergency times for us!
Meeting Forest staff, chasing our application from one office in Almora to another office in Nainital, pleading and talking to anyone who would listen, we did it all. After a week, the permission was given and along came the wood-cutters of the hills.
Watching them in action, is a treat. They know exactly how to cut a trunk so that it falls where they want it to fall. Which branch is to be lopped first, so that the over-all balance of the tree remains. How to remove bee-hives respectfully and non-violently.
In a matter of hours, the tree had been sheared and stunted into a stark silhouette against the sky. From a dense green umbrella which would sway and sigh on summer afternoons, I had a tall, bare skeleton with some sprouts of green at strategic points.
All is not despair, however. The old branches will be good firewood for the approaching winter months. Hema and Saawali lopped and chopped up a pile of wood which was stuffed into the car and driven across the golf course to the village. Winter evenings would be cosier with these twigs, though villagers prefer the wood from pine and oak trees.
The tree will give out new branches and twigs. Next spring, the silhouette will be different, but the cycle of the seasons will still be displayed outside my kitchen window. I will continue to make my morning cuppa and marvel at the colours and the textures Nature serves up on this Pangar tree.