One For the Road

Travelling Along Back Country Roads is the theme of this week’s Lens-Artists Challenge #158. Thank you to Beth for her post. You can visit her site here

Now here’s a story for you –

One cloudy Sunday afternoon I followed this single track road to get closer to Loch Tay (Tay in the Gaelic means “House”). Further down the road. I could see ruins down in the trees along the shore. Surely this had to be the old village of Lawers I’d heard about.

It was a fair slope down to the water. In the fields beside the track, there were a few cattle and on the other more sheep … who ran off as I approached … all except one. The dry-stane dyke has been waiting a while to be restored.

The loch is beautiful in a lovely part of Perthshire. Once part of the Breadalbane estates – the family that once held the largest landholdings in all of Scotland.

When I reached the shore, there was not a soul around. I soaked up the views, the cool air on my face and the stony earth at my feet. I couldn’t see any sign of a jetty. I’d been told steamships used to do day trips along the loch in the 1800s. Further east along the bank, I explored the ruins of the 1000-year-old village of Lawers.

Few walls stood amidst the hummocks of fallen stones and tangle of trees. The gable-end of a home still stood out. After the village church roof collapsed two hundred years ago, services were held within its walls. It’s said about a thousand people from the area would attend communion, many rowing across the loch.

It was so still, here. No birds sang. There was not a breath of wind. An occasional bleat from sheep reassured me a bit.

Just the day before, I’d heard that the village is haunted by a certain Lady of Lawers.

She lived in the late 17th century, was said to be gifted with Second Sight and when she died was buried under an Ash tree beside the kirk.

Soothsayer, Mary Campbell married and lived here in the late 17th Century, in this township on her husband’s farm. She became known as the ‘Lady of Lawyers,’ because of her wise sayings. Many of her predictions came true in time. Some caught my attention!

The feather of the goose will drive the memory from man.

Storytelling gatherings in people’s homes kept the community together. People knew their family history and the tales of their ancestors. Learning to read and write (education) meant that people lost the need to sit telling stories to others. They no longer felt that strong sense of belonging.

The mouth of the sheep will strip the land pf its people.

During the Highland Clearances of 1750 to 1860 many poor families here were evicted from their homes and the thatch roof burnt so they could not return.

The last person left this village in 1939. The land has been for sale since 2016. A real estate agent commented that they’ve had a lot of interest lately, especially from other European countries, perhaps because of CoVid…

Oh No! This reminds me of another of her prophecies!

Spend as you get, get as you spend. Save and for whom? Remember death!

Lady of Lawers

As the clouds began to darken, I had one last look at the loch. Saw the remnants of the pier for steamships in the distance and left … vowing to learn more of Mary Campbell’s times and story.

Sources

CAMPSIE, Alison in The Scotsman, September 7, 2020. The Village that stood for 1000 years and slowly slipped away.  

The Lady of Lawers. Wikipedia. accessed 27 July 2021

(PS. If interested further, search for a program with Tom Weir called ‘The Lady of Lawers’)

All text (except quotes) and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

Less is More: Lens-Artist Photo Challenge #43

This post is a response to Amy’s Lens-Artist challenge. Trees are one of my favourite things and I’ve been wondering about this one.

Trees catch my eye. Not sure what type of eucalyptus this is or how tall is is. Searched online and found out there are over 800 different species. Stopped there.

We had it bone-dry over last summer. This tree trunk had a smooth, pearlised sheen then. It felt shiny.  Curious about the bark … I decided to focus on the same patch over time to see what happens.

Are those dark spots the beginning of new bark?

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A shower of rain makes all the difference. It seems to me that all the colours the tree needs for leaves, blossoms and fruits are here in the trunk, ready.

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I did find out that the best way to identify a Eucalyptus is by its bark!

A friend In NZ told me of a novel* he’d read about a man who had many different types of gum trees on his property. When any young man came courting his daughter and asked his permission to marry her … the man would reply “When you can identify every Eucalyptus on the place, you may marry my daughter. “

Well, why not? If Psyche in the Greek myth had to go through all those trials to be united with Eros … sounds fair enough. I wonder if one succeeded in identifying each tree?

The trunk began to feel more uneven. Is it due to lack of water?

Weather is still very dry.

Now the weather’s a bit cooler and we have had above average rain in March, the texture and colour are changing again.

Here’s what the foot of the tree looked like.

Focusing on just one patch of trunk has been fascinating. But what I’ve learned doing this challenge is to not let myself be overwhelmed by the top or crown … just to remember to to start at the foot!

I’ve confirmed this is a Sydney Blue Gum. I’ve listed two sources. The fact that the bark sheds in strips, yet has ‘its stocking of dark persistent bark at the base’ clinched it.

All text except quote and photos by Meg.

PS. That novel about identifying Eucalypts*. A friend who read this post is lending me her copy of Eucalyptus by Murray Bail (1998) Winner of the Miles Franklin Award 1999.

Sources

Australian National Botanic Garden, Growing Native Plants, 2012. Isabel Zeil-Rolfe. Eucalyptus Saligna: Sydney Blue Gum. 2016, Australian Government, Canberra. Viewed 30 April, 2019. https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/trainees-2016/eucalyptus-saligna.html

YOUNG, P.A.R. (1991) Rainforest Guide. Brisbane, Brisbane Forest Park Administration Authority, p38.

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law.

‘Flower’ of the Day: Cee’s OBC

What colour! Last week I took this photo in the warmth of the Fitzroy Gardens Conservatory, Melbourne.

I’ll submit it as part of Cee’s Photo Challenge but that glorious pink is the plants’ bracts, not the flowers of the poinsettia.

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       It was a cool afternoon in June with occasional sun … great for some of us to stroll in the park and enjoy these Autumn avenues.

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I sought out a special ‘Fairies Tree‘ in the park. The sun came out again.

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First carved  in the 1930’s by Ola Cohn who wanted children and those people who believe in fairies to know there was a sanctuary for them, here. It was restored in the 1970’s and is such delightful whimsy …

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…. with lots of talking points and stories here.

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All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law.

Cee’s Odd Ball Challenge: Strange Fruit

I’ve been wondering what to post since the WPC Weekly Photo Challenge ended in May. So, I’m hoping for inclusion in another (Cee’s) photo challenge. Over this last month I’ve been fascinated by the blossoming of this particular tree … and thinking about fruits and seeds

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Such a glorious velvet red!

Telling a story is like sowing a seed – you always hope you see it become a beautiful tree, with firm roots and branches that soar up. But it is a peculiar sowing, for you will never know whether your seed sprouts or dies.” Michael Montoure in his book ‘Slices.’

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These odd little balls are fruits/seed cases clamouring to be attractive to birds so they can be dispersed far from the tree. Perhaps someone knows what kind of tree this is?

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A change in colour after rain

Seeds are powerhouses in stories as in life.  They can be magical and send you to sleep like Titania in Midsummer Night’s Dream or they can provide opportunity, health and wealth.

Now they’re turning brown.

This month I’ve been retelling the Asian folktale Aina-Kizz and the Black-Bearded Bai. I first told it more than twenty years ago. The trickiest part of the retelling is the pivotal liar’s competition, demanded by the Bai ( a local official) when this woodcutter’s daughter outwits him in public and the judge fines him. The first one to call out “That’s a lie!” loses their bet.

[It’s hard work lying consistently. If the reteller misses some details out, the ending won’t work!]

The Bai began by saying that he found 3 ears of wheat in his pocket, one day before he was born. These he threw nonchalantly out of the window. When he next looked out, the crop was so vast his horsemen took ten days to get to the end of it … (and he brags on about his workers, the crop …  goes on more about his power)

The girl in her turn calmly claimed she found one cotton seed.  The bush that grew from it reached the clouds and she picked and cleaned the full bolls herself. She made made enough money at market to buy 40 camels laden with silks … sent her brother off to trade these in Samarkand … (and goes on more about her family)…

Her intelligence triumphs over his brute force.

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All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

 

Love the Tree that Gives You Shelter

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Huge tree in Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, NZ.

While mulling over last Week’s Photo Challenge of a Favourite Place, I recalled an old Russian proverb tale “Every Man Loves the Tree that Gives Him Shelter.”

It celebrates regeneration symbolised by the oak tree that grew from the acorn planted by Great-Grandfather on the day his son was born. That child became a Grandfather at forty years old when Vanya’s Father was born and ninety-two when Vanya ( the latest in the family) was born. The old man keeps his grandson company under the tree, enjoying the shade while his parents work in the garden.

“I love my mother best in the whole wide world,” says the child. His grandfather nods, adding ‘Your mother is your shelter, Vanya’ …

Trees shelter and protect. They provide many other benefits.They change with the seasons, bud, flower, fruit and drop seeds. Most grow taller and have a longer lifespan than we humans.

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This Spanish Chestnut at Balmerino Abbey, Fife, was said to have been planted by Queen Ermingarde in 1229. Tests have revealed it’s only 400 – 435 yrs old

By the gate of the house I grew up in was a Rowan tree. The Scots’ superstition was that it kept any evil from your door.

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Old Rowan tree in Autumn, berry-laden, among the ruins of a cottage at the back of Tobermory, Mull.

If you’re fortunate when you were growing up, you had a family to protect you. On the TV news, the sight of a huddle of women, fleeing the bombardment in Ghouta stays with me. They were scurrying away together, shielding small children as well as carrying whatever they could – for the last woman it was a bright blue plastic bucket – in chaotic street full of gray rubble, guns and fear.  How will this civil war ever resolve so that the people can live in peace? How will they ever build homes again and plant their Olive trees?

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Cherry Tree in Spring, NZ

Standing under a flourishing tree lifts my spirits … the way a friend does when we hug … no matter where I am. One of my favourite places full of trees is on top of a nearby mountain ridge. In the quiet spaces within this soft, dappled forest are sculptures created by Graham Radcliffe.

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Created by Graham Radcliffe in his Phoenix Sculpture Gardens, Mount Glorious, Brisbane.

… The story continues …

When the child asks his grandad what the old man likes best, he replies “My tree,” He then fishes an acorn out of his pocket and gives it to the child saying “Plant that and when your mother’s no more and you’re an old dad like me, you’ll not want for shelter till the earth is your roof.”

NB. This is an old story and as a sign of its time has much gender bias. Everyman means every individual to me.

Many years ago I remember we had a speaker from a charity ‘Men of The Trees’ talk to my class of eleven year olds about tree conservation. The organisation has planted 26 billion trees internationally since it began in 1926

(Just found out in Wikiwand that the original English Branch of MOT has rebranded and is now the International Tree Foundation.)

T T T T T T T T T T T   T T T T T T T T T T T  T T T T T    T T T  T  TTTTTT TTTT TTTTTtttt

Sources

Balmerino Abbey. National Trust for Scotland. Accessed 29 March, 2018.

Everyman loves the tree that gives him shelter. in FARJEON, Eleanor. Eleanor Farjeon’s Book: Stories – Verses – Plays. Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1950:95.

Men of the Trees.

Top 22 Benefits of Trees. TreePeople. Beverley Hills, Cal. Accessed 29 March 2018.

See also http://www.treesisters.org. Their focus is on reforesting in the Tropics.

Favorite Place

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License and also Copyright © under Australian

Mangoes: WPC Growth

In Queensland, luscious mangoes signal our summer holiday season over the New Year. So juicy and delectable, they are best eaten leaning over the kitchen sink!

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A few years ago, my neighbour’s Bowen Mango tree used to produce so many mangoes, she couldn’t give them away … so she had it lopped!

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Whenever I see a mango tree, I remember an Indonesian story retold by storyteller Helen East. My version goes something like this –

One still, summer’s night the moon shone full on a tall, dark mango tree. Cicadas suddenly ceased chirping  and listened. Disgruntled voices were drifting up from the tree’s roots  “After all,” they complained, ” we do all the work and get none of the attention or thanks!”

They muttered on about how hard it was deep down in the dark earth, holding the whole tree fast, while keeping water moving up to the trunk, the branches, those leaves and all that fruit.

“Look at that lazy trunk, just standing there!” they yelled, looking up.

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Hearing this the trunk yelled back “ Not, so! My job is constant strain. Holding all this tree together in wind and storms is much harder. If I break, we all die. You forget too that I carry all the food back and forth to all parts. I’ve also had limbs chopped off for firewood, bark stripped by foraging animals: the pain of it all.”

Then the trunk added “It’s those leaves just hanging there, dancing in the breeze. I wish that was all I had to do!”

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Surrounding branches swayed in disagreement. They thought differently.

“How little you know, “ whispered the leaves in chorus. “ All day long we convert energy from the sun sharing it with the whole tree. We’re up all night releasing air for the tree while it rests. We shelter you all from too much sun. Heavy rains often tear us down.You wouldn’t want to have our job. Look at the fruits, all they do is hang around, grow fat and glow with pride when they’re ripe. There’s the kind of job we’d like!” they sighed.

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The fruits held their tongue at first. They knew it was because of their existence that this tree was valued. Then they indignantly pointed out how badly treated they were, often ripped off before they were ripe or gnawed at by bats and rats.

“We have the worst of all – such a short life. Though prized by humans, many of us can be left to rot at the base. The rest have to give ourselves up to be eaten, pulped, sliced and worse…”

A deep voice broke through the babble.

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“Enough! … I spend a long time waiting for my fruit to ripen,” said the husky stone.

“We fall together. If I am cast aside and land on good earth, we go on. When I dry out, I force my case to split open so the seed can begin to grow into a sapling. I remake all of you from my core when a root descends and a shoot ascends. Trees like us have flourished for thousands of years. We all have our part to do in the growing …”

Just then,  a woman came softly into the garden to look at the moon so the tree fell silent. And the cicadas began their rhythmic nocturne once again.

Growth

Sources – Story adapted from Helen East’s retelling “The Heaviest Burden” in  BRAND, Jill, BLOWS, Wendy & SHORT, Caroline. The Green Umbrella: stories, songs, poems and starting points for environmental assemblies. London, Black, 1991:93.

Mango – Wikiwand article

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License and also Copyright © under Australian Law.

 

Sheltering Green : WPC

This week’s Photo Challenge reminded me of a Russian proverb “Everyman loves the tree that gives him shelter.” Last Fall, we had a leisurely walk around Green Lake. People were in the lake, on the lake but mainly, around the lake.

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Green shade is a blessed relief in our hot Australian summers. A local family of Boobook Owls have moved to smaller trees which give denser shade, so they can sleep better.

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Continue reading

Scottish Snippet 2: Nostalgia WPC

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All the Rowan trees ( Mountain Ash)  I’ve seen lately, in different parts of the country, are loaded with berries.

Gerard Manley Hopkins called this tree ‘ the bead-bonny ash’ in his famous poem we learnt at school entitled ‘Inversnaid.’

Locals shake their heads at such bounty, given the old superstition that it forecasts a hard winter.

Meanwhile  Autumn moves on a pace with cooler mornings.

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and burnished days.

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I remember walking among glorious trees, arm in arm …

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 … humming old songs. Nostalgia.

Nostalgic Weekly photo challenge

Story Twigs the Imagination! Text and photos by Meg Philp© 2016

Story Told on a Tree of Life.

Here are images of a story carved in Western Red Cedar that’s not mine to tell. It belongs to the Coast Salish People. You will have to use your imagination, Dear Reader, as you look up the pole to piece a story together which makes sense to you.

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The tale starts and the bottom and ends at the top.

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The characters, human and animal, are in the order they appear in the narrative …

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… from the diligent warrior, all the way to the runaway couple at the top.

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The images of frog, heron, the Creator, octopus, and a canoe are split so they wrap around the pole and can be seen from both sides. That frog’s split/shared tongue symbolises a betrayal – the failure to keep a secret / a broken promise.

This story pole or legend pole stands in the grounds of the University of Victoria. (The label ‘totem’ is incorrect for it is an Objibwe word.) It marks the territory of the Coast Salish People of the Pacific NorthWest.

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I was in Victoria BC. for the conference ‘Narrative Matters 2016.’ My first session was right here on the UVic campus- “Vertical Narrative: Reading History in a Coast Salish Pole” – led by the Director of the U.Vic’s Legacy Art Galleries.

The pole was completed in 1990 by master carver Charlie Elliott, of the Tsartlip First Nation, in negotiation with local elders. It faces east, towards Cadboro Bay because this traditional story is set there.

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The warrior has his arm around his wife to protect her, but to no avail.

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Look up at the top. Can you see a black stone, a type commonly found in Cadboro Bay, embedded between the pair? This gives a clue re the couple’s fate.

This cultural message is regarded by the First Peoples as a true story. They regard Western Red Cedar as the Tree of Life.

…..

All text and photos by Meg Philp.

Curve
Look Up

For more info see
https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Charles_W._Elliott

Click to access 2009-11-17-Coast-Salish-Fast-Facts.pdf

http://www.firstnations.de/development/coast_salish.htm