Lament for the Scots Pine

Broken branches, fallen boughs, John Muir Country Park, Scotland

Location: The John Muir Country Park near Dunbar, Scotland

Event: Keeper of the Soils walk, event by North Lights Arts rescheduled 13.3.22

The Keeper of the Soils cloak, walking the Pilgrimage for COP26 October 2021

Preparation: I asked everyone to pick up a cone and practise playing it like a thumb piano, and a dead branch (for snapping when the time comes).

Natalie Taylor (@artforalluk on twitter), Keeper of the Soils, had chosen one of the trees which fell down in the storm. Half the group stood at the head of the tree and half at its foot. This is following an old burial tradition in which half the mourners would stand at the deceased’s head and half at her feet while the lament was sung.

A collection of Scots Pine still standing, John Muir Country Park, Scotland
Spoken version of Lament for the Scots Pine c.TamsinGrainger March 2022

Lament for the Scots Pine

“We stand at your head”

“We stand at your feet”

“And I keep watch over your trunk”


Hail Scots Pine!

Straight your stem

Contained, your goblet of leaves,

Slate-grey your coat

Needles the green of the waves,

We see you

We see you.

Scots Pine cones

Hail Scots Pine!

Silent you lie

When once the wind sounded you,

Woodpecker knocked

We play your cones with our thumbs,

We listen to you

We listen to you.


Hail Scots Pine!

Rough your bark

Cold to my palm your branch

Dry your scales

Stroke the smooth lumber inside,

We touch you

We touch you.

Lewis playing the fiddle, John Muir Country Park, Scotland

Hail Scots Pine!

To sniff your scent

We must-break one of your boughs

Clearing my nose.

Fragrant the resin which oozes.

We smell you

We smell you.


Hail Scots Pine!

Bitter my tongue,

Salt in the air and through you.

Peppery mint,

Sweet honeydew loved by wasps.

We taste you

We taste you.

Jane Lewis leading the community singing, John Muir Country Park, Scotland

Tasted ocean,

Listened to Hedderwick Burn

Smelled the river,

Watched gulls and deer.

We applaud you

We applaud you.


Tickled by squirrels,

Rain wetted your canopy.

Shivered by snow,

The wind blew you right over.

We mourn you

We mourn you.

Natalie Taylor collecting the soil sample for keeping in the cloak, John Muir Country Park, Scotland

Grown from seed,

Might have lived 7-hundred years.

Closely planted

Could have grown-more-than 1-hundred feet.

We keen for you

We keen for you.


Pinus sylvestris

All identical ages

Shallowly rooted

All same species together

We respect you

We respect you.

Lexi Douglas reading to launch the event, John Muir Country Park, Scotland

Heated by sun,

We rarely view from above.

Cooled by sand

We don’t usually see under.

We learn from you

We learn from you.


‘Timor mortis conturbat me’?

No, fear of death does not trouble me,

Because

‘Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life’.

Fallen tree with sap oozing, John Muir Country Park, Scotland

Quotes

‘Timor mortis conturbat me’ from late Medieval Scottish Poetry. A phrase from the Catholic Office of the Dead, it was used notably by William Dunbar in his ‘Lament for the Makars’. See also ‘Timor mortis conturbat me’ by Diana Hendry

‘Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life’ John Muir

The park is by the sea, the mouth of the Firth of Forth, East Lothian, Scotland

Publicity

A contemplative walk round the John Muir Country Park trees following the effects of storm Arwen. Including live fiddling from Lewis, a community song from Jane Lewis, new poems from Rita Bradd and Tamsin Grainger, and soil sample collection by the Keeper of the Soils, Natalie Taylor.

Event to lament the Scots Pine, John Muir Country Park, Scotland