Growing up in Sweden, where most of the landscape is covered with trees I was surrounded by forests and it has always been an important part of my life, it was a space I would retreat to and connect with. Ireland has the lowest forest cover of all European countries with a mere 11% compared to an European average of well over 30% (Sweden has 70%), and only about 2% of that is native woodland. While the barren windswept land in Ireland always has invigorated and inspired me I do miss the depth and the mysterious energy of the forest.
The forest signifies growth; an inner journey, transformation. A place people retreat to for healing, contemplation, to explore and boost their mental health - more important now than ever in times of isolation and quarantines. It is said that visiting a forest can improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety, as well as cortisol levels. The beauty, wisdom and tranquility trees radiate makes us feel protected and invigorated.
There also lies a challenge in the forest; being a place of magic and danger, a place where strange things might occur and strange creatures might live, the forest is often seen as a symbol of the dark unconscious, used as a metaphor for entering the unknown. It has been widely used in religion, psychoanalysis and mythology. Throughout literature, a pervasive fear of the woods has found its way into the subconscious of several texts, both ancient and modern. Every Little Red Riding Hood has its wolf in the forest, every Hansel and Gretel its witch in the woods. Psychologists have interpreted such symbols “as an expression of unconscious processes in the mind”, deconstructing a journey into the woods to be more than just a literal journey through the forest; it is a metaphorical journey into the mind.
This ongoing project is bringing me around Ireland to explore the forests of the country, meeting old wise broadleaf trees in native woodlands with its vibrant biodiversity, as well as exploring dark conifer forests and learning about the issues of the widespread Sitka spruce plantations; a destructive reforestation method used in Ireland. The series is exploring the mystical depths; a play with the dark and the light, the new and the old, the dead and the vibrant.
In the depths of my mind
I wander into the luminous dark
Subtle scent of pine and moss
The silence: a soft embrace
Websites to visit for more information about the importance of biodiverse forests in Ireland and what you can do to help:
- Beautiful and informative documentary following the artist Ian Wright that explores what a real forest is vs the commercial timber (Sitka Spruce) plantations, and how these plantations are destructive to Ireland.
Tree Preservation Ireland
- Great website aiming to spread awareness and information about the forests of Ireland, the many benefits (environmental, clean air, health), the issues with Coilite and timber plantations, and so forth.
(For their activist page visit 'Save Ireland's Trees' on Facebook)
Tree Council Ireland