There is a horse chestnut tree in my town; it stands silently alongside the only pavement into the centre, its branches sheltering the pedestrians.
In April 2020, during our first emergence from a period of covid self-isolation, my young daughter tightly gripped my hand as we walked to the shop for essential provisions. It was the early days of face masks, yellow arrows on the floor and stepping around other humans; a new alien world.
That was until we got to the tree, where the falling blossoms were reminiscent of snowflakes that rarely fall in Devon. Giddy with joy, Freya let go of my hand and danced and swirled under the tree, an unburdened child desperately trying to catch the delicate petals.
In July, during the unusually hot weather, together we sought deliciously cool shade under the tree’s leafy green canopy. Its branches stretched out to protect us from the unyielding sun, until we were ready to continue our journey for a cold ice-cream treat.
In September, on our first walk to school, with butterflies in our tummies at the unknown, we found conkers on the pavement. The rich brown shiny seeds, nestled in their spiky green homes, were there to welcome the children back to school as always. The satisfaction at finding the perfect conker took the children’s minds for a short while, and my own too.
The tree will endure. A watchful guardian of the town it offers a cosy familiarity when everything else feels unknown. I find comfort in its predictable simplicity.