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ABCD: the Circle of Trees

December 3, 2018

Bron’s writing and Jane’s photos:

Well, that was a pretty intoxicating meeting! So many ideas, experiments, directions. My head is still whirling, but I’ll try and make sense of my notes.
3 trees weren’t here: Birch, Alder, Oak, but we went round the room in the order of the trees that were present. So….
Rowan – Carol has linocuts in mind, and has researched the myths and facts associated with the Rowan. For instance, the berries represent drops of blood that fell to earth when Hebe lost her chalice of youth to demons, and an eagle was dispatched to get it back, shedding some feathers in the process, giving the Rowan its many fingered leaves. So drops of blood may feature in her book (especially as she is giving blood next week, just to get in the mood…) But she doesn’t want her book to be too reliant on mythology.
Carol Rowan
Ash – Clare envisages a hardback book with covered spine, possibly with ash poems and images. She has already made several books on the subject of the ash, and parts of them may feature in this one. She has also been drawing some ancient coppiced ash trees in the railway embankment in her valley, and noting the number of birds that occupy them. Photo below shows old work on Ash and also stone textures, as a starting-point for new work.
Clare Ash
Willow – Karen says the willow is linked with the hawk, with water and air, and the moon. She has looked at the many species – 400 or more – and made some paintings/stitchings of the coloured ones: the red ‘Flanders Red’ willow, the purple ‘Purpurea’ etc, and on one of them she incorporated a handful of willow dust ‘stolen’ from the heart of the willow in the tree circle, and fixed it there with gauze. She may use this image as an end paper, or frontispiece, to her book. She would like some words in the book, and the group strongly encouraged her to try using her own words which may not be ‘poetry’, but which are very poetic. Photo below shows willow tree embroidery, bark photo and waxed leaf.
Karen Willow
Hawthorn – Judith has been working from ‘How to Boil a Book‘, and has already produced half a library of lovely little books using each experimental piece, rather than just leaving it lying around. She too has been using her own phrases to sum up each experiment, also very poetic. She used dyes and different mordants to achieve the results, and one in particular turned, overnight, into gold. Alchemy … Judith’s photo is below.
Judith hawthorn print
Holly – Jane has been photographing the old holly trees on Chalice hill, and also looking at the mythology associated with holly. For instance, holly and ivy used to fight: holly was the boy and ivy the girl, and ‘of all the trees in the wood, the holly bears the crown…’. Also the holly takes over from the oak at Summer Solstice till the winter Solstice when roles are reversed. A fact that intrigues her is that the upper leaves of the holly (no prickles) are fed to stock animals. She is experimenting with holly shaped books.
Holly 2 JaneJane Holly
Hazel – Janine has been thinking of textures to do with hazel, and experimenting with massaging brown paper with baby oil, wax and other substances. The resulting papers are soft and textured; some just like vellum (second photo, below.) She also made a small fold book with hazel leaf prints using acrylic ink.
Janine HazelJanine Hazel 2
Bramble – Caroline has been looking at the many different types of blackberry, and carving the peeled stems which incidentally, are 5 sided. She is also interested in the myriad birds animals and insects that inhabit or are sustained by brambles, and also by the way the vines re-root themselves across the ground – in a looping fashion. She mentioned a solitary bee that inhabits the stems and turns them into brood cells. Photo below shows a section of peeled stem marked with the Ogham sign for Muin (bramble).
Caroline bramble
Ivy – Nina wants to do some dyeing with ivy, and experiment with different parts of the plant. She quoted David Haskell: nature weaves the warp thread of individual organisms and the weft thread of relationships into the fabric of life. Ivy ‘binds’, and can be made into rope.
Guelder Rose – Judy wasn’t at the last ABCD and so, although she took on the guelder rose in spite of the fact it doesn’t grow in Hampshire at all, she wasn’t sure what the brief was, so made a mock up of a tree circle in cardboard, which could be quite useful as a reference tool.
Tree circle Judy
Elder – Bron – this tree was offered to Pat, but in the event, and because Pat wasn’t sure whether she could take it on, and won’t be with us till February, Bron rather enthusiastically took it on, and did some rapid research. About the superstitions surrounding the elder – never to be brought into the house but to be planted at the door to keep away the devil, and not to be burnt either which would upset the ‘Elder Mother’ who lives in the branches. She is looking at the recipes using elder, for wine, champagne, cordial, fritters etc and may make a Elder Mother cookery book. Or not.
What shone through all this research was a huge delight in undertaking it, and in the discoveries it leads to. So we have decided to spend another month developing our ideas and updating the group at the next meeting on January 12th. People appreciated the more in-depth aspect of this approach, and the fact that there is more time to produce the book. We also imagine that there will be a lot of spin offs from the research which may well lead to further books.
A couple of other links that are worth following:
Thoreau on Nature as Prayer, and David Haskell’s poetic prose from his book “The Songs of Trees”, both of them via Maria Popova’s wonderful Brain-pickings Newsletter,

Next two meetings: Jan 12th and Feb 9th.

PS Oak – I (Ama) was unable at the last moment to get to Saturday’s meeting, but have been doing botanical and folklore research, writing oak poems and eco-printing oak leaves.
oak prints

Finally here are the December dove-droppings, this time written by Clare. I could not persuade WordPress to reproduce the spaces between the stanzas, so I have indented alternate ones.

this will be brief
a requiem
the corks popping
       screwed up again
       massaging maps
       a green woodpecker flew in
adventures in book boiling
before the turnips
reside in the wastepaper basket
       vegetarian vellum
       leave it in a bucket
       with a brick on it
the national tree of Ukraine
tears when wet
transforms into this
       Obsidian Thorny
       Karaka Black
       alchemy had happened
jungle animals dyed with berries
holly blue
some gold
       stolen heart of the willow
       burns really bright
       giving blood later
make it hollow
tempt with elder
keep the witches out
       make it personal
       great swathes of it
       brood cells all the way through
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