The Pace of Life: Slowing Down and Creating Legacies
Posted on November 2, 2017
It’s Autumn. Summer passed in a succession of drab, wet days and the occasional burst of sun, and, true to the much-muttered phrase, time has flown. Perhaps it seems to move faster the older we become, or maybe it’s something to do with how busy life is. We haven’t been prolific on this blog because we’ve been adding our latest news to our individual project websites, but we wanted to share some reflections from the last few months.
The two years we spent with ‘remarkably ordinary’ trees as part of The Long View were a time for a great deal of slowing down, and plenty of learning. We’ve been delighted with the enthusiastic and heart-warming response to the exhibition at Grizedale Forest and we’re excited about touring the work to Newcastle, Oxford and Brighton in 2018. While we were bringing together the exhibition, and creating the book, we were also dreaming up a more solid and permanent legacy that could involve real trees. And, like many dreams that are mixed with a fair dose of effort and commitment, goodwill, and tenacity, it came to fruition.
As a legacy of The Long View but also as a marker of the nationally significant Charter for Trees, Woods and People, we have been supported to create three permanent artworks in Cumbria. We’ve called them ‘treefolds’. Made with traditional dry stone walling techniques using local (and mostly reclaimed) stone, and encompassing lines of Harriet’s poetry, the three treefolds will each be planted with a new tree this coming Winter. Each treefold has through stones that double up as seats, so visitors can sit and pause with a tree; perhaps returning in different seasons, and year after year as the trees grow. It’s a way to step into ‘tree-time’, to take the long view both literally, across the landscape, and over time, and metaphorically, in consideration of the environment and the impact we as humans have on it (both negative and positive). You can find out more about the treefolds on The Long View website here.
The Charter for Trees, Woods and People will be a legacy in its own right, creating a strong voice for trees and setting a precedent for their protection in years to come. We’re really proud to have been supporting this campaign for the last couple of years, and looking forward to playing a part in the launch on November 6th, in Lincoln. The launch will be marked in several ways, including with the unveiling of the champion Tree Pole which has been carved with a poem written by Harriet. This is one of eleven to be located across the UK to celebrate trees and acknowledge the principles laid out in the Charter.
Harriet has been commissioned as Poet in Residence for the Tree Charter and one of her poems appears on the opening pages of the new Charter. She has written poems for all the 15-foot-high tree poles that will be placed in sites across England (the champion pole and seven others): the words have been carved alongside motives reflecting the charter principles by wood carver Simon Clements. Over the years, these poles, as well as poles in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, should stand strong and weather the elements - a lasting legacy of trees and a reminder of how important they are.
image courtesy of Simon Clements
Upland Farming Heritage
Alongside The Long View, we’ve also been spending time with farmers across the Yorkshire Dales to create a collection of portraits and oral histories presenting contemporary farming life in the Dales and the views of farmers as they reflect on their life and consider what might be ahead of them. The Voices From the Land project, run with the Farmer Network and supported by the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Heritage Lottery Fund, entailed meetings with more than forty farmers, visits to sales and shows, and the involvement of a team of volunteers and two schools. The resulting exhibition at the Dales Countryside Museum will be on show for six months before moving to Richmond, and eventually the images, audio recordings and writings will be archived as a resource for future generations.
We felt this was a worthwhile project when we started it but it wasn’t really until the opening evening, when the room filled up with about 100 people – many of them farmers and their families – that we realised just how important it is to create collections: today quickly becomes the history of yesterday. There has been much to celebrate about farming and the often tender bond between farmers, animals and land – an interconnected three-way relationship that underpins so many activities and forward-thinking plans. Yet many concerns were also shared and the interviews reveal widespread uncertainty about a sustainable future for farming here. Brexit proposes a big ‘unknown’ but is not the only uncertainty. You can find out more from the Voices From the Land website where there are excerpts of the interviews with the farmers (both written and audio) and a collection of portraits.
A lot going on, but it’s not all about rushing
Sometimes it seems as if every minute is filled, but in actual fact it’s relatively simple to expand the time between tasks and, to be honest, the work we do is so pleasurable that it is always fulfilling. And on any day spent outside, time begins to slow and we make a point of pausing, regularly. It’s an essential part of our work as it allows us to observe closely, and to process what we learn; it’s also essential to our wellbeing. And we do manage to sneak the occasional extended period of time away, camping out or simply taking a very, very long walk, and heading back with the guidance of torches, or, if we’re lucky with the weather, under the light of the moon.
Every walk and every moment spent relaxing outside is like a little portion of soul food, as some people might describe it, and we feel very fortunate that we are able to take the time, and still have the fitness, to do this. We’re hatching plans for 2018 that involve lots more walking, so watch this space!
here we sit, waiting
waiting for the light to change
there may be nothing in this wide view
to remark on, or everything:
it is a way of seeing
clouds shroud fells
summer shine subdued
rocks as old as time
wear lichen cloaks
and the day’s warmth
the sun sinks, pulled
into the unseen west
I lean into the trunk
as if drawn in, heart to heart
branches twist blacks
against a darkening sky
moon as a pale apple
waiting or rushing is a choice
for us, every action is a choice
and this tree could be a teacher
rooted, growing, in no hurry
settled into the scheme of things
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