Spring bird song, gentle grey sky, trees in a slow sway at their crowns. I’ve been to the studio to print my reference for the trees that line English Bay in Vancouver, those trees that populated my sunset meals last week – silhouettes against the golden light in a dance too slow for us to see, but a dance nonetheless. There is morning news of two babies coming, one who I will meet this summer; of more people who have become homeless in Ukraine, Palestine, Hamilton, Sub Saharan Africa.
I think about home, and what that means. Is home the same as Location? Is home defined by familiar things, by family? I’ve just learned a welsh word, ‘hiraeth’ that has no translation in English. Loosely, I understand it as a soft, long yearning for the kind of familiar that sings in one’s bones, even if that place or time has never been, and never will be. I think Scotland is this, for me. Grandma wistfully called it The Home Country.
My mother passed at the end of January, my Dad (Grandma’s son) three springs ago and in the quiet, shifting mystery of death, love, sorrow, anger and acceptance these wonderings arise, like mushrooms out of mycelium under a forest floor.
I’m drawn to the cabin where I have relations among the trees, the critters and birds. Not traveling there today as planned – my little battery was out of juice and requires ten hours to reach a full charge. And me too. I need a slow re-charge – back just three days ago from Vancouver, and not three but four human hours went ‘poof’, since I landed the day the clocks were sprung forward.
Quite amazing, the effect of this upon my body. Until this morning I’d become completely unhooked from ‘time’, even with the clear evidence of sunrise. Makes me curious about how bodies adapt to places where daytime lasts for six months.
I am learning the speech of plants and trees from Monica Gagliano, PhD (Thus Spoke the Plant, 2018), and from David G Hoskins, who is fascinated by natural soundscapes, which have evolved out of what he calls ‘deep time’. Since I’m learning how to make and use pigment directly from tree fruits, leaves, roots and heartwood, understanding what I can of their language seems respectful.
I’m grateful to Diana Beresford-Kroeger, who has woven the story of her own journey, rooted in the indigenous knowledge of old Ireland and then spun through the hard sciences of botany, physiognomy, medicine to plant itself on some acreage near Ottawa, where she has rescued an impressive number of trees from extinction.
Suzanne Simard writes that healthy forests express as healthy families do and honour their elders, who are worth much more to us standing than cut down. She’s from BC and comes from a long line of loggers; my thoughts were with her as I walked through the streets of Vancouver, along the soft pathways in Stanley Park. I thought of Emily Carr too, the hiraeth in her life, in her paintings.
But for the slow process of charging my little Cabin battery I would be on the road in these moments, traveling north as the farm fields unfold from box stores, houses, bakeries and universities, enjoying the fringe of winter trees that line them like intricate upward reaching lacework.
I’ll write and draw today, and travel tomorrow. I wish you warmth and peace in these complicated times.