Sagas of the Inner Hebrides: The Atavist Planter

Rusting ferns take up the gradients, where land pitches lowly the still waters of the bog saturate the soil, heath grass chokes the small saplings in swathes, with the occasional bog myrtle or heather flowers eking out a living. In this peat, the only thing that thrives are the sritely spruce, and scotch pine, starkly a birch grove may be seen, a cluster of strong willed oaks, or the offset hawthorn or rowan, but methinks the latter are planted merely for some quota ascribed to the land, not that this is their ideal habitation. It is without hesitation that I rise to meet the day, yay, even eager to put on my weather garments and drive the near two hours into the highlands and restore at least a couple hectares of land with coniferous trees and their allies, but my higher instincts tell me there is a suffering. The plantations are not sustainable forestry. My work plays out like the repeated conflictual story between the noble peasant and the opulent rulers of society. I take my highest pride in putting trees back into the earth, about 10,000 of them so far here in SCOTland; spruce, lodge-pole, oak, pine, rowan, hawthorn, birch. I have sunk my essence in vials into the grounds, a sort of tribute sacrifice, these lands are known to have preserved a number of bodies from the Stone Age forwards. Planting alone, climbing over knolls crested with drystone ruins of elder houses I am reminded of folktales of exiles, rugged, highlanders and witches, you had to be one of them to live this far out of the way in a stone hut like that. I touch the stones, raise one of my own near the site and move on. I have encountered two standing stones in an old burrough town, far off the beaten path. Markers of a far more elder migration route perhaps? Who raised them? What would they think of the land now, beside the loch where their family may have dwelt a time seeking arable land. I am left confounded with the quandaries and dichotomies of this LAND. A land fought for by the grandfathers and their fathers, of the clan, rich with fauna and the magnanimity to inspire. The latter is still true, the places, and spaces do emit a tender charm, a freedom of openness, but this easily turns to the feeling of desolation as the memory overcomes the mind. A patchwork forest, the longed for grunt of the Stag, the absent scurry of the door mouse, the straight lines of conifers, the tracks of heavy machinery. I pine away at what has become…

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