Take Five Senses

In a couple of hours I am going to be evangelising about using lots of detail to describe things in writing. The project I am engaged in involves heritage and last week I introduced the ogham tree alphabet. But in some interactions I realised that even these rural school children are less than fluent in naming tree species. We live in such a biodiverse setting, too, it seems a pity. But this is what comes of losing words like acorn and willow from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. (Please see my poem on the Lost Words in my post https://sojourningsmith.blog/2018/02/18/lost-worlds/.) My creative writing facilitator/teacher and Marble Arch Caves Geopark guide roles overlap sometimes as I spread the word about our natural heritage.

Later this morning I am going to challenge some kids to get acquainted with a tree species by writing a five senses poem. This involves getting in words that describe your subject using all your senses: sight, smell, hearing, feeling and taste. Since trees are our subject the taste part may be difficult, but we’ll work on it. I figured I ought to do one in that kind of ‘here’s one I made earlier’ way, to illustrate how you might tackle it. I chose willow for my poem today. I can see one from my window. The Irish name for willow is sailleach. The Hiberno-English corruption of that is sally. Hence, the title of today’s Poetry Daily.

Sally 

There is a certain scent-
early morning raindrops on tender leaf-
that could be bottled and labeled
'Willow Water',
marketed as essence
of her special brand of dilute green.
.
Sally's fronds shiver against the wind.
Her shoulders shudder.
It's too early for such bluster.
She shooshes for quiet.
It's like the sough of waves
as the tide rushes over pebble beach.
But the sea is miles and miles away.
Besides, Sal prefers the peaty water
from the depths of ditches
that run straight in rows
along the sides of the road.

She's that slender you'd not know
how strong she really can be.
See how she turns her face
away from the wind.
She bends and blends.
I can hear her giggling glee
standing out there in a storm.
She's like one of those cheerleaders
who bobs and waves pompoms
when her team makes a score.

She can do the tumbling routines, too.
But if you bump and get bruised
Sal is the sort who would be
the first to aid.
She'd peel the shirt right off her back
to help any and all,
make some bark tea for you
to drink away every bitter ache.
That's just our Sally.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

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Layers

I am not feeling exactly on my game this morning. Either I have really bad hayfever, or I have a cold. This past week I guided local school children on a walk on the Cavan Burren. We are fortunate to walk on land that has been continuously, but gently, occupied for as long as humans have lived in Ireland. Most of these school children come from families with centuries long roots in this place that is very much on the map in the myths told about the first peoples of ancient Ireland. 

I was pointing out how rocks and trees were the big story of this place.  It is thought that high chieftains were inaugurated under a tree sacred to their clan. But we also have the inaugural stone for Clan Maguire not far from us.  The Tuatha dé Danaan are said to have landed first on Slieve Anieran, which is twenty miles or less from them, just over the boundary in Leitrim. The goddess Danu  is said to have married Bile,  the old Irish word for tree.  The school group in Glangevlin lives close to the Belavalley Gap, where the Tuatha’s smith forged their magical weapons. And then, because I have atrocious Irish pronunciation there was a brief discussion between the teacher and children about the word tuatha. Most often it is translated as the people, or tribe, or the children of Danu. But it also has a further nuance, which carries with it  the sense of it being the place, or land, of Danu. 

Which hit me like a big chunk of sedementary rock off of one of those glacial erratics in Cavan Burren Forest. Which also has its fair share of rock art cup and ring marks.


Layers


Once

land was the same word

for people.

It meant

belonging.

As a marriage

can be happy,

fruitful

as a tree –

bud

blossom, fruit

berry.

Just another

layer

of being,

many

and one,

but not

the same.

The land

is layer

upon layer-

sand,

granite,

lime and iron

in rock.

The first people

are the mother cup.

The rings

carve out

the generations

widening out.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith

The Last Stand

It is local wisdom that once you turn agricultural land over to forestry you have given up on the land. It is an act of despair, a giving up on making a living from raising cattle or a bit of horticulture. Over the years 50% of agricultural land in County Leitrim has been turned over to monoculture Sitka spruce plantations. The county that spear-headed the ban on fracking in Ireland is now taking on forestry. Read more about the campaign on Save Leitrim website http://saveleitrim.ie/.

We have a Sitka spruce plantation just across our lane. We may live in West Cavan, but we have a lot of forestry that has been planted over the years here, too. But we have avoided the clear cutting of it when it comes to harvest time. Enter the red squirrel. Which we see now and again round the neighbourhood and has been making a come back west of the River Shannon.

Irish Red Squirrel Conserve Ireland
Image found on ConserveIreland.com

The Irish red squirrel (aka Sciurus vulgaris , aka Iora Rua ) is an endangered species and therefore has its habitat protected. A timely sighting of our furry friends, reported to the local Conservation officer, put paid to any clear cutting the plantation over the road. Because red squirrels feed on both deciduous and spruce trees. So they cut half of it in 2010, replanted it with a combination of spruce and broadleaved species, and then waited for their food stock to mature some before coming back for the (now very elderly, nearly 60 year old) trees left.

Last Stand

For months they have shaved away
at the half-plantation
we prevented
being clear-cut
(because the red squirrel
living off these trees
is a protected species.)

They came for them eight years on,
lumbering day and night.
They took the trees
some storm left standing
at 45 degrees
(bent like that for years)
their machines shearing

before dawn and after dark,
in all weathers, in snow,
in torrent,
even Storm Eric -
until I can almost
see the Playbank's rump
rising above stumps.

There is one last stand of trees
who have been our neighbours
for nearly these
seventeen years,
sheltering between
two drumlins rising,
those trees, their being.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured Photo by Jace & Afsoon on Unsplash

The last stand
The view across from our home last week.

Naming

I am rather preoccupied with life laundry and workshop planning. I drafted a poem first thing, but the process has been interrupted by tasks away from the keyboard. So I am now proceeding to get the post out and poem re-drafted during my 4pm slump. (I was born this way. My mother could never get me to nap on Dr. Spock’s schedule . BTW he was the Boffin author of a 1950s Baby Bible and nothing to do with Star Trek schedule. I routinely flaked out 4pm and an elder sibling would be tasked with rousing me for supper at 6pm.)

So this post and poem will probably reflect a certain tiredness without benefit of nap time. Also, feeling a bit rushed. Which will also be the case tomorrow. What I need is an Ivory Tower and a self-cleaning house. Oops, that sounds a tad Mrs. Cranky. Better get on with it!

Naming

First, it is tree.

Upon further acquaintance

With the silver and gold glimmer on bark

Its rough and smooth

Shine and shadow

The cycling through bud, leaf, flower

Does it fruit?

Then we get properly introduced

And on a first name basis

Because Alder is not Ash

Despite having catkins

Hazel is not Willow

(Who sometimes goes by Sally)

The orange flare in Rowan’s red berry

Is not the red of a September haw.

Frost turns a blackthorn’s sloe

 Shade of Midnight Quink

I could crush the Elder’s berries juice

And write my name with it

A name is not just an arboretum label

With its Latin alias, too

A name is a kind of destiny

The beginning to a

Knowing intimacy

That goes far beyond tree

Copyright Bee Smith 2018