Recep is a man of few words; our regular ‘conversations’ consist of gestures that interrogate or indicate. They always end with a beaming smile and ‘Çok güzel. Hadi!’ (Wonderful, splendid. Off we/you go) Recep is also an ‘Ent’!
For those of you not familiar with the world created by JRR Tolkien; from the ‘Silmarillion’ through ‘The Children of Húrin’, ‘The Hobbit’, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and many others, Ents are foresters who so loved the trees that they were charged to nurture and protect that they became like them. Ents are ancient beyond years and, although much fewer and more secretive in these days of avarice and men with chainsaws, they are still among us.
As I said, Recep is an Ent; you can read it in the sun-browned wrinkles of his smiling, lived-in face and in the slow and gentle pace at which he moves. Or in the love he shows towards those in his care – the trees of any shape, or colour, or race, or creed! Recep does not discriminate or favour any one above another, and I am privileged to have him as my neighbour.
Three years ago there was a storm that uprooted a number of trees around our area; many were broken or beyond salvation. One that looked beyond saving was near my house, a mulberry that I suspect had been planted by Recep many years ago. The tree was lying on its side, roots exposed, looking fit only for logs. Later that day I walked by and there was Recep with 2 of his grandsons, a tractor and trailer and a chainsaw – that’ll soon be on the wood pile I thought. Not so! By the time I walked back the tree, polled back and shorne of its heavy branches, was upright once again. I stood a while to admire; ‘Çok güzel!’ said Recep, ‘Çok güzel!’ Three years on the tree stands yet, its branches laden with fruit in the late Spring.
I learned about him soon after moving to Okçular; ‘Recep the Tree Man’ he is called by locals. We met one day, about ten or eleven years ago, on the track to my house; using our gesture language I asked him what he had in his hand, ‘Okalip’ (Eucalyptus) he stated, there being no known gesture in our ‘language’ for such a thing, and held up 2 seedlings. ‘Çok güzel!’ said I and then gestured ‘What will you do with it?’ ‘Plant them, there and there’ he gestured. ‘Çok güzel!’ I exclaimed. Recep then handed me one of the seedlings, ‘You take it and plant it’ he gestured.
I brought this delicate little piece of life home and set about searching out a suitable pot or container. Here, the magic of Recep interceded because, amongst the pile of flower pots was one full of bone-dry soil but showing a feathery green shoot an inch or so high. Eighteen months earlier my, then young, grandson had brought me a ‘conker’, the seed of the horse chestnut, which I’d dutifully stuck in this pot, watered for a while and then, when nothing happened, forgotten about. There is no doubt that had another couple of days passed it would have withered and died without trace.
That wise old Ent, Recep, must have known, because now J and I have two magnificent trees in the making; Recep’s eucalyptus, fast-growing and already 10 metres high, grows outside our gate; my grandson’s ‘Conker Tree’, slower growing, is a healthy 2 metres tall and lives in our garden. Trees are gifts to generations as yet unborn, cared for, where they can, by Ents – eternal foresters.
As Tolkien wrote; ‘The Age of Elves is passing and the Age of Men is begun’ and what a mess we have made of it. As I look about the world and the destruction we are wreaking I can only speculate that the ‘Age of Man’ is passing too and for the sake of the rest of the creatures in this world, not a moment too soon!
photos: an Ent; avenue of eucalyptus Marmaris; a ‘conker’; horse chestnut tree; horse chestnut flower.
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü