Friday 2 December 2011

A-B-Tree phase 2

I have now completed 18 creative writing events, one for each tree associated with a letter of the Gaelic alphabet. The last one was willow, at Timespan Museum in Helmsdale, and as it was disgusting weather we stayed indoors - restricting our experience of the tree to some twigs I had brought, and some baskets. But the participants seemed to enjoy themselves nonetheless, and we had a fascinating discussion about the folklore of willow, including some pretty weird ritual practices associated with it - good for a laugh.

So that's phase 1 of the project complete, and now I'm getting under way with phase 2, which is to gather all of the information I have collected about the trees and write it up. Quite what form that writing will take is still pretty fluid, and I'm open to suggestions.The plan so far is...
  1. Poems. I have now written a poem about each tree. I had some already but it's been an interesting challenge to complete the set. Once they're polished, they might form a pamphlet.
  2. More poems. There are loads of really gorgeous poems about trees out there and it has been one of the pleasures of phase 1 to find these and share them at events, using them as inspiration for new writing. I realised last week, having spent a day in the Scottish Poetry Library, that there is a lack of a poetry anthology about trees. Trees Be Company was produced as part of a trilogy by Green Books about a decade ago, but it misses many wonderful poems. It would be great to work with a publisher to produce a new poe-tree anthology.
  3. Tweets. One of the things people have enjoyed most about the A-B-Tree sessions are the snippets and titbits I brought along of ecological and practical facts and folklore. At many of the sessions I handed these out on bits of paper and we all took turns to read them out. I realised that these snippets are all roughly tweet sized, so I decided to tweet some of them, taking a tree a day and going through them in alphabetical order. I started yesterday with birch. Today it was rowan. And I'll carry on until 18 December. As I go, I'll put them up on a page on the website. Birch and Rowan now have their pages. Follow @cybercrofter on twitter, and tune in at dusk each day to catch them.
  4. A report. The project has been supported by Forestry Commission Scotland and Hi-Arts, and I'll be writing them a report about the events.
  5. School materials. I've had some discussions with teachers, and I'd welcome more, about producing some of the information about the trees in a form that would be useful for children to learn from. One suggestion has been to make laminated cards for each tree, with images, facts and activity suggestions. I rather like this idea. 
  6. A book? Is there a book in all of this? Let's see how it goes.


  1. Thoroughly enjoyed the event at Dawyk Country Garden, Peebles at the end of October. Learned lots of interesting things about the oak, its folklore and historical uses. Would never have guessed that the moon's magnetic pull controls sap levels in trees, in the same way as tides. With a lively, convivial atmosphere, the workshop was delivered with enthusiasm and confidence. I only wish we had had a chance to do some writing, but I will send poems in due course! Thank you very much, Mandy.

  2. Thanks Nalini, and I'm also sorry that no-one wrote that day, though the exchange of knowledge was something special. Do send poems!!