Keib’s tree of heaven
September 15, 2007, 4:53 pm
Filed under: Trees

Keib's Tree of HeavenToday, because I am an idiot, I turned up at Keib Thomas’s memorial celebration at Southwark Cathedral exactly 24 hours late. This would probably have amused Keib. It saddened me a bit. Then I came home and saw this tree in the glorious not-quite-summer sun and thought I’d put a little memorial here.

Keib was a community activist who did a great deal to make life better for all sorts of people in Southwark and the Borough, and a wonderfully gentle presence. He used to live just along the road from our house in Greenwich, above Halcyon Books; for a long time he was justKeib Thomas the-guy-who-looks-like-David-Crosby to me, but we got to know each other, stopping to chat now and then when we saw each other. That all came about after I somehow enlisted his help in taking down the Tree of Heaven in the overgrown back garden next door, a tree that was feasting on sunlight that should have been feeding the plants Nancy was growing in our passageway. Getting to the tree through the garden’s clutter and kibble was in fact the hard bit; dismantling it with a hand saw was easy — the wood was so soft it was like cutting butter. I took off branches two, three metres tall. But as Keib knew and told me, the tree would return. And as you can see it has made a good start.

I think we both knew, too, that people and trees differ in this — that when the time comes we do not return, or, for that matter, go on. While he was active with interfaith groups Keib had no religious beliefs himself (he thought their absence positioned him well as a go-between). But such knowledge, in the context of Keib’s time having come far too soon, is hard. Happier to look at the tree, breathe deep of the air he and it shared and which everything yet to come will share in too, and indulge in a little Kipling:

They will come back—come back again, as long as the red Earth rolls.
He never wasted a leaf or a tree. Do you think He would squander souls?

Picture of Keib from SAVO website


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