It is the time of suspension and falling and the glimmering colours before the quiet release …the most gentle sweep to sustain into the dead still of the Cailleach’s grip.
hawthorn and sorbus berries, scarlet and vermillion – October CRUSH – golden stars of maple and sycamore, fallen acorns hatching pink seekers all rain-swept in growth or in decay or in offering. I play hide and seek in the long grass, picking up small handfuls of vibrant matter, five or six berries at a time,
crossing my path is a stone holding down the five limbed star of a field maple, pinned somehow purposefully there by wind, or weather, or dog , or child. Another leaf dwindles and turns in the nave of arcing branches amid the falling surrender of leaves
Each day the same way in, the way down promises clouds and skies – the swirling shifts of weather even in this small crucible of the Glen
and the small oak by the well is still yielding an abundance of acorns into the ground where the mowers will one day come – I arrive and pocket on successive days the small oak beings, some still in their caps, some knocked out of them, so ready to become earthed in, already sending energetic feelers for the deep, my dress and coat bulging with new prospects; some for sowing with Trees Please, and some for throwing on the highlands, a good enough ritual for Samhain on the cusp of a new year.
And the next day I stand sheltering under another mother oak, before more i do more castings of baby oaks brought from the valley floor
This third day of gathering I find a seedling has begun rooting where it fell, here under the crown of mama tree, so I must pull, more than pluck it from the ground, these babies will take their chances on the steep hard slopes of the valley’s walls, must find a resting place among the bracken skin, which has taken over from the gorse, whose skeletons remain withered now and blackened from successive spring burnings … I am praying the wind and rain will drive these little time capsules into the ground where they will take root out of reach of next year’s fires and the next and the next…until strong enough to spread roots and oak arm in oak arm can shoulder more.
Today I feel I may have got my last haul from the bole of the chestnut tree… “my chestnut tree” who presides over the entrance to Glenview park.
As I write this I feel the precariousness of her position, on a road, a conduit East – West across the City’s Northside, but thankfully not the main one, she is the guardian of our park. I have been picking up the glowing kernels since September where they fall. This patch, like all the roadside verges is managed by the council, who mow here regularly, and I harbour feelings of guilt over my obsessive pickings, knowing that they would be crushed and turned to mulch, like the husks I leave behind, to feed the earth. Knowing my intervention will have repercussions these thoughts are brought into the mix of the ritual of the circling of the tree. Tuning into the ground beneath my feet, the domes of empty shell subtly different to those containing nut or the slide of nut alone. I enjoy becoming sensitised through my soles to the ground beneath, to the offerings of the tree. I have seen the freshly opened linings of the newly fallen by their glowing white, these alert me to a new finding, a singular new finding of findings which accumulate with each new passing. Some cases have had their conkers bounced completely out and I will find the chestnut in the grass nearby, while others split off a segment, which will indicate nearby a cloister of the other two sections harbouring the glossy brown treasure which, on picking I will prise from its spongy satin walls yielding its soapy inner skin. Today I find a small naked one in the grass, it may be one I overlooked, it’s skin is darkened and it lacks the lustre of the newly hatched, but as usual, the finding of one opens the forager’s sixth sense, alerting me to others nestling nearby, the prickly outside looking more whole somehow, betraying their bountiful presence as they hide among the grass. Today I find six in all, rich pickings as I had expected fewer, anticipating my final haul…when this day comes it will be momentous… it will have already passed.. – We have had heavy rains and winds and sunny spells on the in-between days across last week, culminating with a major deluge on Sunday. All of this intention for collecting of gatheirng my senses and noticing has massed into a ritual and an aknowledgment of my relationship with tree: the circles happen, beginning in the middle ground , radiating to the outsides, coming back in close as I tread the ground, all senses alert, to ground and not least to passers by as I must have become a regular site here treading and circling, bending and peering and plucking at the base of a tree who yields no fruit for regular, adult behavior. On the final inner circle I remember to touch the bark and as I leave I look back at the tree her branches now showing plenty of sky, she is etched in my mind as I leave for home with whatever haul I’ve made for the day.
I wonder sometimes at the need for this foraging, summoning an ancient instinct of hunter gatherer ancestry, a need for deep connection with land and soil of changing seasons and nature’s bounty, as the days grow shorter a gathering of stores, the squirrel in me harbours this joy and impulse to collect. In my studio they gather, I’ve been informed that the gases emitted by horse chestnuts will ward off spiders, (the arachnophobe in me is grateful). I’ve seen recipes for crushing the chestnuts into laundry soap. I fend off practical uses for the chestnuts, the ritual of collecting is all I need, a connection with tree without any purpose is important, the connection made in movement, gesture, time and repetition the reciprocity I have bound in spell between tree and me. A song.
In the studio I look for the brown of the nut in layers of colour I put down on paper, attempting to build the pattern and depth while the nut retains its lustre, the chestnuts darken quickly withdrawing back into themselves and contract, hard and wizened on the strings I’ve made. I have a whole tree’s season of chestnuts here… I imagine that with due diligence I have gathered not quite every single one the tree has produced this year. There, with a couple of additional nuts from Birr, some from the trees in the park and from the tree up the road … the exceptions proving the rule… or the glitches which take us out of the rut, essential catalysts for a spiralling evolution ( I see more burnt orange in the nuts from Birr)… or a proof that I move about the land a little further than the doorstep of home… or a network greeting other trees in other parts… All of this, and not a betrayal as I have pondered before, a mapping of migrations and returnings.
I remember the gathering of different numbers on different occasions … at the height of the season there were too many to hold in view, but latterly there have been the constellations formed by different numbers 11, 12, 4, 6. The numbers resonate in patterns, emitting a certain tone, the ultimate collection of 6 appears somehow like a 5, one elides another in the pattern of its placement, in my minds eye, and in its relationship with the others. The mixture of sizes plays with distance and proximity in the same way we perceive and judge the stars. How they look on my table, each makes contact with the surface at its shadow, another form cast from the light behind, showing a weightiness and, at the same time a lively buoyancy at its contact with the ground, a contrariness that has fascinated me of matter held together in this way, each a capsule of itself.
The connection I feel is a musical one, repetition, rhythm, weight, buoyancy, proximity, distance, glossiness fading to dullness, iteration, reiteration, chestnut as notation… somehow I want to express the song.
Addendum – later on Tuesday …
In retrospect I must have been aware of the motors yesterday … I took off for an evening stroll and greeted the tree, where I found the ground was patterned with drifts from blade and tyre, leaves mulched, linear heaps of decaying brown in the newly leveled live green … here a different kind of tide mark from the rains, I note the overlay of tractor trails on my walking patterns circling the tree, I see the old horse chestnut shells now mixed up with shorn and torn leaves I see conkers, unharmed still, peeping out from the piles I collect them all – 8 beauties so this was the last day of the conker …perhaps
I have been reading about becoming compost seemingly online, I find Sophie Strand reciting her I will not be purified (Amanda Palmer and others here providing the fertile soil out of which the words can grow) and have drifted across her in conversation with Andreas Weber about the indiscriminate eroticism of becoming food, the act of love in decay, a yielding and active participation in earthly cycles … it all rings very true with me <3
Walking the park midday is not my favourite time, missing the birds, the world is in full tilt and the light is flatter, this morning was dull when I expected blue skies, there’s nip in the air, I busy about my morning till after midday when I strike out to deliver some Glen booklets to groups up the road. On the way I pass a crow and a gull trapped mid-flight in death, it seems some scrap on the road brought has them down in beak to beak battle. Now rolled over by traffic, head of gull is submerged among wing feathers, beak of crow is energetic still, weapon-like and bundled against the shiny dead eye and deep black head – betraying the tender feathers of a young one. I had been attracted to this spot by the dazzling yellow heads of sunflowers, incongruous here on the nomansland corner of the housing estate, heavy heads bowed and bobbing, constrained and supported by the railings that skirt that vacant space left by the demolition, and erasure of the old Glen flats. Here with their backs to the houses they are tuned to any drama that might emerge before them. I am certain they have witnessed more than the evidence I see now. I walk on further and come across a large gull, soft, gentle, dead, an unmarked beauty, it could be sleeping still with its head curled almost under wing, its soft beige greys and ‘off’ whites all setting a peaceful scene of downy softness – (the Irish word bán, being a better word for this gentle milky colour, that draws you in rather than hitting the light right back at you). Resting at the kerb, I stop to take some photos of her sleeping eye, a woman approaches sad, I wonder aloud if it could be the wave of avian flu blowing across the land and sea, she says she often sees them killed here, she feeds them sometimes and nods to the grassy bank across the road, and cares deeply about them, having pigeons of her own. Later walking back I notice the bird is lying in a bed of squashed potato chips.
So on my outward mission I pass the chestnut tree, gathering this morning 11 new conkers and adding a few, now on my return, from nearby trees. I feel a loyalty to my tree and hold the chestnuts from each other tree in different places, shoving them into different pockets and keeping the 11 in my bag. I ponder making a gesture to my tree – to leave a neighbouring conker at the roots, but decide against it, instead I pick up a twelfth for my bag before sauntering on the the Glen.
The height of the day is not my favourite time here, and I am glad to come across Donal, who is sitting on the bench near the Rowan that once was. He is keen to chat about energy and the cost of living about renewables and solutions and the old days of layering and new leaps in understanding about farming, nutrition and the science of it all. I like his kind grey blue eyes, while he talks I am distracted by the Sorbus by the bridge, its open winter crown, a dome of colour, berries luminous, greys and greens of leaves against the pale sky, their undersides lifting the colour to that bán I noticed earlier in the gull, I change the subject, unable to stop myself remarking on the beauty of the colours, and Donal names the Sorbus, he talks about the bark matching the perfect grey to the colour of the leaves in spring, as I listen I am seeing another perfect harmony, vermillion berries abstract from this distance, pure colour brightening the October song…. Josef Albers plays impressionist. We both agree it’s good to live in the moment, appreciating what we have here and now as we walk along talking about travel, the Swedes and the Irish, seeking winter sun, the queues and the pleasure being knocked out of it.
The horse chestnut tree is releasing its fruit; for a month I have been passing by and picking up the fallen ones – I find them bounced on the concrete, scattered across the tarmac, cracked open along the seams, released from their fleshy enclosure, in the grass an eye opens in the gap. I have learnt to spot the freshly fallen kernels in the grass by looking for the whitest linings, not yet tarnished by sun and air, they lie open and empty, betraying the refuge of nut in earth, I fill my pockets. Each time I pass I am reminded by the massing shells of the bounty I have stolen. These massive seeds were destined for the council mower, a crushing and splitting and eventual return to the earth, not to seed and grow but to feed the mother tree in endless cycle of growth and production, without offspring. I feel my intervention and part in this cycle is one of thief and also, partially, savior. It’s compulsive, I can’t resist the glossy chestnut brown, the light in its skin best while fresh, the opening from the flesh, the unique smooth fingerprint of growing pattern across its tightly wrought surface, the sheer potential in its watery weight. The discovery of each one is a delicious hunt for treasure and pleasure in skin and eye.
We have had clear nights and the sky full of moon and Jupiter, whose orbit is in perigree, and at its nearest to earth since 1963. The nights are full of this light, the conkers are all released now with the waning of the moon. I will of course check in with them again tomorrow.
In the park the rowan stump wears a rosary someone else appears to care as much as me for the sad departure of a beautiful tree
green beads, wooden carved appear like echos of the berries that would be burning red right now, the Irish name for this tree is Luis, meaning flame.
It’s past the autumn equinox, the days are shortening into winter and time has flown, flowed in summer flux since my last postings …I have been away from the Glen, lost my footing there with all of my busyness … the connection is fragile, on the surface at least … the connection needs continuity …last Saturday the first of October we passed through the Glen, the surface place it has become, 4 pm and en route, destined elsewhere, for mushroom foraging in the far field on the hill, our perimeter… We stopped on the metal bridge looking East into the Fleischmann place, I was with R, when something zipped from under us, a blue flash electric and gone, we look at one another.. a trailing spark, we say to each other …did you see that…? So small so quick, flash, kingfisher, singular, just the one, not imagined, seen. Sweeping through the same bridge I stood a year ago, or more, looking in the opposite direction, remembering the juvenile I saw, skimming the water from under the bridge curling westwards past the Alder pool and the OPW marker into the marsh not at all blue but white and black. Has it grown up? I feel pulled in, welcomed back, the Glen is opening up to me once more. I am beholden. Kingfisher
Wednesday in the Glen Resource Centre a gathering of otter enthusiasts heard Paddy Sleeman share his knowledge and answer questions about Cork’s urban otter population, 11 have been counted by the disitillary and 8 on the Bride – they have always been here he insists, across Cork’s rivers in abundance. Their white markings may be an indication of close living with humans, not exactly domestication… but.. and these markings make individuals identifiable and trackable. Adult males can be 18 kilos and a force to be reckoned with, females are up to 8k .. they usually give birth to 2 in a litter, sometimes 3, but often all but one are abandoned… harsh living and feral survival. Otters have been hunted in Cork for centuries, their fur so prized that ground rent used to be annually 2 pelts, valuable for their heavy wear and waterproofing. We saw a photo of a Bride otter with his neck hair up like a lion, this mobility on the scruff is there for the mother to catch hold of, and once grasped in her jaws the kit’s body goes limp, and this hair behaviour remains into adulthood – I think of feline Mixa and her mobile neck flesh. We heard of Bride otters crossing the road into the Glen by the fire station, and so during lockdown there were multiple sitings of families in the park, at this time the road was quiet and they were able to access the Glen river for fish, the trout were plentiful too then – i’m remembering the strange sites of last year, fish with roe dead on the grass. Otters have a way of corralling fish Sleemann says they are gatherers more than hunters, herding and eating small fry in river pools. Otters are plentiful in Cork but mink are too. and it’s the mink who are responsible for the decimation of the coot population in the Glen of recent years. The BEES dept have been tracking otters by spraint and analysing DNA this way but would prefer hairs, thye want to find how the envrionment and pollutants are afecting them, as their populations are still strong but in one female they’ve found an idiosyncracy on the DNA x chromosome …. from pharamaceutical polutants… this may lead to less fruitful breeding patterns down the line as has occurred in the UK ..they are also looking for the presence, and effects of microplastics, and other human waste. So they aim to put up sticky patches (somebody fro the audience suggested velcro) on known ‘otter slides’ into the river to get hairs for more accurate readings.
Palest of cuckoo flower at the oil spill open to all that comes on the breeze
listening to the birds, waiting in vain for the cuckoo…?
A gentle placement at the tri-trunkular tilla cordata (small leaved lime)… an offering of sorts it seems
The Ash over the zigzag, near or far still there at the apex, willing willing willing – there will be no die back or dye back fears or dye-back pre-emptive measures of heckling saws in hands, the Ash must stay, hold sway, be generous, near far near far near always swaying, holding, sway
It has the look of an open book, this place I overlooked yesterday from on high, evidence remains, a rock and a pillow, a pillow and a hard place, a rock and a soft place, off the beaten track
looking the other way, the brassicas are the new yellow of the Western Glen
Listening and moving on up the acid yellow so different to the song of the gorse, no bees at this hour….
and Mugwort standing tall from last year, ignoring that acid blaze of brassica, courting yet the graffiti at the cage
Into the Glen after 8 dusk is falling – the bulrushes are lit up by the low light and still young hangers on at the yin yang a magpie crossing my path
I go to find the places of the cuckoo flower,
checking the sites I remember from last year – the ponds at the South side of the yellow bridge, the oil spill at the bayou, and this year’s find at the metal bridge… all there – though I find a patch at the oil spill is missing the pitch-perfect lilac delicacy, presenting wan instead, a ghost of itself, each and all the of the blooms opening their flowers to the Glen birdsong …..but no cuckoo
En route I stirr awhile under the swamp cypress, unable to resist wrapping my arms around the warm shaley bark and breathing in the air beneath the network of limbs overhead
Eastwards and there is a dog-sphynx sitting at the portal to the Fleischmann place pale and prominent, a little pal making its way down the zigzag detached from a human a few rows up, he struts passed me to one of his own.
Someone has made a bridge across the river, I saw them there last week balancing on the bendy branches waiting for a snap without a fall, two young men and a small child making impressions on one another… feeling the crunch the the ragged twist and splinter of the limbs as I passed, wishing they could be kinder to the tree they were using for their game.
…the light is creeping across the gravel making its golden presence felt in sedge and in the throats of the thrushes, blackbirds, tits, finches, goldcrests, robins, wrens, pigeons, crows, and mallards I cannot name them all but guess their songs from seeing them about the place and the intense cacophony of birdsound
There is a nest on the pond, a moorhen is in it, floating in plain sight I wonder how safe is she or her brood with heron and dogs, among others, about
I move west along to the high ground and the broom is holding out where the gorse used to be, softer and not so prickle-dry as its cousin, it has managed to keep a hold of the ground, the other hill peeping out over its golden tops
moving on, doubling back on the lower path, I go to seek my stone, picking up another along the way and the army of Bracken is making heady towards the crest of the hill where the burnt old gorse spells out its story, i see the hatch in the groin of the wishbone path, a puff of cloud hovering overhead, a kind of halo, my stone sits heartchaped on the black compost…walkin on a notice activity in the dumping ground, gestures, telling another story of Glen life, held in the branches of the dried up gorse, witness to all that happens below.
Bracken emerges scalded out of the ground, in the new shoots I see the charring reached in below ground as they were forming but the heat didn’t halt the vigour of this primordial plant making its way to the air and the sun, tanned, the unfurling forms have a fetal quality new limbs testing themselves in the new air. The brambles are moving in as the old thorny bush lies down, some still reaching for the sky, the yellow glory much diminished and sadly missed. The road home whizzes by below urging me on I pass the Engineers gates as the Crescent moon comes into view
and I see my first cuckoo flower on 22.04 of 2022 at the metal bridge
The lilac of the flower is said to coincide with the arrival of the cuckoo from Africa… I haven’t ever heard a cuckoo in the Glen. The cuckoo flower has just a few spots here, usually at water’s edge, I saw another one by the new yellow bench on Sunday, and last year I saw one by the old Poplar Stump, their singular presence sings out not with an audible voice but their cool clear colour Li Lah c
Sun setting on the end days of April 25.04.22
the race between Bracken and Fireweed to cover the charred ground once the region of the Gorse
Animal tracks revealed across the hill since the burning of the gorse
These days I have been entering the Glen via the ZigZag, too early for Sunview East (which is still under lock & key till the Council begin their day) It’s been some time since I walked this path – the way is lush with Winter heliotrope ruffling the borders of my descent, an audience of sorts, their generous cones beckoning the morning sun, all ears to my footsteps.
And so I make a grand entrance, stopping at the viewing balcony over the Fleischamnn ruins, the white gateposts of the empty lot and the muddy platform that was once Maeve’s place, I see the river sliding through, and the upper field still frosted; the curtains will soon be closing on this view, which will be taken over by growth, for now I suck it up, listening to the birds.
I go on down to see if the Dipper’s around, but something odd attracts my attention
There is something different about the log where the Dipper waits. Yesterday disgusted by a plastic bag trapped there I thought about returning to remove it. Today already it’s something else: an open book. Its pages wafted by the river, print not yet washed away, there is something birdlike in its wing-paged presence. I crouch closer and cannot make out what kind of book it is, the print is small and my first impression is of some kind of bible, or holy book. Now through the lens of my phone I see its more likely a novel. I make out the upside down words… ‘crumbling house’…. so seemingly apt in this place, I wonder if it has been planted. Curious I make my way over to the other bank, passing a procession of Lords and Ladies, their membrane cowls lit up in the low sun, all focused around that purple centre, standing upright, at once exposed and enclosed.
The way parts white and blue for me, anemone left and bluebell right as I entangle myself in trees to get a look at that strange book from this other side. Here it takes on a more animated role, clinging to the log, pages multiply-limbed, out of its dorsal spine, making my skin crawl in response to its creature presence.
Leaving the woods and wending past the Ragged Robin on the old stone wall I pass beyond the little white flowers in the hedgerow by the bayou, sleepy still, they are lifting their heads from the frost, too here are members of the dandelion family, still clinging are their yellow gold petals, stuck to their white-seed halos like plant life comb overs I wonder – can plants too be vain? By the ponds I pass the unzipped bulrushes puffed up, and still hanging on to their seeds in their velvet brown heads.
The concrete space for the bench is primed to for a fitting. I stop and take in the HAUNTY script, aware of it becoming a haunting of itself in the ever cumulating layers of Glen activity. A few days are compressed into one and the new bench arrives yellow, making shadows now across the already old inscription, HAUNTY 22. Here once stood a wooden bench that in the ways of the Glen got burnt and had to be replaced.
I find a clutch of feathers wafting gently by the pond, a loosely balled aftermath, waving. Nearby the 3 cornered garlic is out and freshly white.
I make my way to the high ground and crossing the overflow of the well, I find the little stick bridge has been dismembered since the last time I crossed, yesterday.
Up passed the branches of the mother oak, on to the charred hills, and ground that is now replenished by water, water from rain and frost and dew, and new growth is spurting up from the black earth
at ground level blades of grass make offerings of water droplets to the earth while Fire-weed and Bracken are racing to claim the territory… I look forward to the promise of Rosebay Willow-herb once more gracing the heights of the valley, even while I miss that little magical portal made across the track by willow and gorse. With no partner now the willow arches to nothing, parched to the ground I’m hoping she survives. The wee red fire-weed army marches up to its roots, bolstering its presence here on the heath of the Glen.
Creatures carry on
and find ways back below, the gorse still giving egress at its charred old base.
the charred growth becomes dead signs
Coming back along, the path is lit up by the rising sun and I look below and wonder at those twin trees, that pair leaning into one another like an old couple, one emergent green, the other still skeletal, I decide to go to visit The Hatch. Doubling back through the Gothic zone I pass a cluster of Hart’s Tongue fern – a name so resonant – deer’s tongue lick – hart to heart, they are emerging now from the bare ground, echoing the imprint of yesterday’s fern croziers. Just now, here in the valley I discover those twins are both Maples. I look up between their branches and see them reach for one another, a slip stream of sky between them fizzles with their approach.
The wall at the hatch is so transformed now, in its painted white surface those deeper embedded signs come forth… human carvings, letterings and text talk. So what about the lichens? They used to come here in circles of yellow and grey-greens/pale whites – live and growing – are these lichen patterns growing still, beneath the surface? or can we expect new pathways atop the paint? For now we have the Brassicas, giving their acid gold in front of the gorge-formed back drop of the ancient valley. We must be aware of the layers we create, us humans and story tellers – what we wipe and sweep – what is erased – what keeps on coming back, in ever evolving cycles….it’s hard to grasp and difficult to perceive … I feel we must be attentive….tune in