Last Autumn I went up to London to one of the first Extinction Rebellion actions. We gathered on Westminster Bridge and listened to people from all over the world, telling us how climate change had already affected their countries.
XR on Westminster Bridge, 17.11.2018
I resolved then and there to do what I could, with the resources I have, to help make a change in our thinking and actions. What I have, is a truly beautiful space in Somerset, with a one-acre field on which we planted many trees over 30 years ago. Included amongst them is a Celtic Tree Circle: a planting of 13 native trees, planted in 1985 by a group of people attending an Earth Mysteries weekend in Glastonbury.
Dove Meadow looking towards the Tree Circle, 2018
I had been part of that group but had left the gathering on the Saturday, being more interested in doing than talking about it. I announced that I had land where I intended to plant a Circle of Trees, following Robert Graves’ ideas in ‘The White Goddess’, and did anyone want to come with me? One person did, and she and I spent the rest of the day marking out the circle. Come Sunday morning, and we were wondering how and where to start, when a succession of cars rolled down the drive. The entire Earth Mysteries group had voted to come and plant trees! So we did, and formed groups to plant our ‘birth’ tree (each tree represents a lunar cycle of 28 days, hence 13 trees). By the end of the day the Dove Tree Circle had come into being, born of collective action.
Now, in 2019, the trees have joined up to form a circle. I started thinking: what can these trees tell us? How can we learn from them? My tried and tested way to proceed is to involve the arts in creating an irresistible event. I had a small but adequate pot of funding and decided to commission a series of poems that the trees would speak at a ‘conference’ which the human audience would attend. I asked poet Ama Bolton to do this, and she responded with a hauntingly beautiful work called ‘A Conference of Trees’.
Ama Bolton relaxing in the Tree House stewards’ tent before the reading of her poems
Maya Love, musician and singer extraordinaire, contributed musical ideas, and I found 13 people to read a tree each. So on 28th September, we met to rehearse and perform this piece as part of the Dove Studios Open Evening.
Rehearsal of ‘A Conference of Trees’ (photo: Deborah Weinreb)
The weather, which had been rather nice until then, broke on the dot of the start of our rehearsal, so rather than performing in the actual tree circle as planned, we gathered under the trees in the tree house corner, and the audience gathered under umbrellas with us, and we went for it. It was dark by the time we finished, and our scripts were dissolving, but we made it, and our lovely audience stayed with us.
Maya Love, singing the trees (photo: Sandie Roche)
And afterwards it was off to the studio to dry off and make pizzas, surrounded by art, which were then cooked outside in the rain by Paul Stubbs:
The poems had ended with a cry of ‘It’s time to plant trees!’, and so it is: an ongoing tree planting programme is planned for Wild Lea, the field next to the Dove Meadow that 7 people living around it, myself included, bought for wilding 4 years ago. And now it’s time to plant a lot of them, possibly with your, the reader’s, help, as we are putting out a call for participation in the form of funds and/or actual help with planting. Collective action, as with the Tree Circle. It works! One for all, and all for one, as the trees say in Ama’s poem.
Leave a comment below, or message me in Facebook if you are interested in being part of this exciting venture: and I’ll get back to you.
for Dove Arts