“After a period of settling, several hours into the drawing, I find myself becoming absent. In quieting myself, something shifts. Now less full of my ‘self ’, I sit still,
looking, breathing, drawing. On a really good day, the presence of the tree, or the nest, or the light on the water, whatever it is I am making a study of, comes up and towards me. There’s nothing metaphysical or theoretical about this; it is a physical feeling of empathy, of absolute sameness. I find this an enormous relief. It is my way in. Having some sense that we are not separate, that is our biggest hope.”
On Presence – Essays/Drawings by Peter Reason and Sarah Gillespie www.peterreason.eu
Deep Lane (Charcoal drawing 27"X40") © SarahGillespie 2017
think it is entirely fair in this case. Nevertheless, the loss of ash, and the grief, are on their way.
An important part of grieving is to take inspiration from the one who has died – to take their lessons and use them positively, to find motivation for renewal. How can we find this in the face of such huge change?
Let’s return to the old stories. When the two humans hid inside the trunk of Yggdrasil to survive Ragnarök, they did not emerge afterwards, as from the ark, into a bright, shiny new world. They stepped out into a challenging place, wrecked by the egos and wars of the gods and the giants. They had no choice but to take it on.
It won’t be only the loss of ash trees that is remembered from the mythology of our own times, but also our response. We can replace dead trees with other species, we can value and propagate our woodlands and hedgerows and treat them with respect; we can think about the source of the wood that we use, and how we can use wood more wisely.
Ash dieback is a wake-up call for us to bring genuine renewal to our countryside, not just to stem the loss that will inevitably come, whether that loss is due to greed, technology or disease. It is up to us now to turn our intentions to the positive. Perhaps we can invoke the healing and the inspiration of the ash, greatest and best of trees, to help double our efforts.
Lisa Schneidau is an ecologist working with Devon Wildlife Trust on landscape-scale conservation. She is a professional storyteller and is the author of Botanical Folk Tales of Britain and Ireland (The History Press). www.lisaschneidau.co.uk
Resurgence & Ecologist