from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Thursday, 8 May 2014

far from the tree

Travelling back along the West Highland Way from the Hebrides to Glasgow, there's a point where, from road or rail, one can see a few pine stragglers of what was once a vast acreage of the Caledonian Forest, possibly once covering something like 12,000 square miles.

Caledonian pine forest - - 1011064
 Wiki creative commons: 'these large Scots Pines may be several hundred years old. The seedlings only germinate outside the shadow of the canopy of the larger trees.'
I find it awe-inspiring that these few pine trees are direct descendants of pines that 'crossed the land bridge' from mainland Europe after the last Ice Age, around 7000BC, and before the melting glacial waters separated us from the rest of Europe. The forest has almost entirely, but not quite, gradually gone, destroyed by felling and grazing.

There's a brave big project going on to replant this ancient forest through the Trees For Life programme: This will not only restore huge tracts of forest, but also provide significant wildlife habitat; and there is talk of reintroducing once-native species such as lynx, wolf and boar to the forest.

Mediaeval Celtic literature, especially stories from the Mabinogi, the Black Book of Carmarthen, and tales of Merlin, suggest that this was not only the location of one of the famous battles of King Arthur, but also the setting for the text Cad Goddeu, a magical tale of the battle of  the trees.

It may once have been the Forest of Celydon, in which various legendary figures, including Merlin (often suffixed with the word 'Gwyllt' or 'Wyllt' in Welsh, with its etymological associations with 'wild'), went on enforced or voluntary retreat during a period of 'madness' – which may in fact have been a period of psychic and psychological change and transformation triggered by shock, circumstance, responsibility for the soul-life of the tribe, and/or possibly shamanic-type visions.

There's much to say about this, but not here.

Where I'm going with this is something my daughter told me, to do with how the forest spreads, and echoed in the caption above: 'The forest walks,' she said; 'the seeds always fall and root far from the parent tree. They can't germinate in its shadow.' I think about the tiny pine cone, its miniature 'wing', and how easily dispersed it is by wind, by bird, on the sole, or paws, of a foot.

And I think about the wonderful metaphor here for not only evolution on every level but also in relation to our children, whether these are fleshly, or are the fruits of our imaginations, and ideas: thrown far from the parent tree so as not to grow in the shade of the 'old', they take root and grow in their own direction, according to their own destiny; and yet the mirroring process of growth to be 'pine tree', not, say, minke whale, will still have within it the mark of the original blueprint, forever. 'The law of continuing', as Brian Clarke says.

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