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"It doesn't take an expert in the manipulation of
statistics to understand that the survival of the entire
human species depends on a sustainable relationship to
the local expression of the processes of the biosphere."
-- Freeman House, Totem Salmon, 19995

Self, Soul & Community
By Ed Iglehart

Three words with strong emotional content; evocative words, provocative words, much used, abused, confused, de-fused, often mis-construed, sometimes downright rude. Three words linked as aspects of a larger whole? Might we say "Spirit," and where might that get us?

"We have been repeatedly warned that we cannot know where we wish to go if we do not know where we have been. And so let us start by remembering a little history."                                        

-- Wendell Berry, Farming and the Global Economy, 1995

But how can we know where we have been without knowing where we are? Best to start at the end and work backwards? A community's spirit must be embodied in the physical realities and cultural history - the biophysical and successional ecology - of a place. I cannot imagine a community without a substrate - rock, atmosphere, liquid water - the so-called non-living (inorganic) materials, and it is difficult to imagine community without life, and therefore history. Life would seem to be the process by which the inorganic hitch-hikes and surfs, riding and elaborating the complex dissipation of energy and increase of entropy - fire. So we arrive at the classical four elements.

But what about scale? How big a place? Gaia's a place, and certainly a community, but a rather large subject for the present purposes. So perhaps that part of Scotland politically delimited as Dumfries & Galloway? Still far too big. How about the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, an ancient county between the rivers Cree and Nith and bordering Ayrshire along the watershed? Why do we start with the big and subdivide? Is the larger more important? Perhaps we can start with the small and work outwards, but how small? Maybe quarks is a bit extreme, and though I know they are there, the bacteria in my gut are an abstraction; all I can visualise is microscope slides, so perhaps self is as good a beginning as any.

But although I'm a community constructed of differentiated cells, each populated by mitochondria and other passengers, navigators, engineers and distribution systems, the whole multi-cellular construct itself co-inhabited by countless microbes, all engaged in the process called life, I should still feel lonely without other units similar to myself. And, to avoid descent into cannibalism, it will be necessary to recognise community with other large and small non-human life-forms outwith the arbitrary but convenient boundary of my epidermis. And there's the 'substrate' as well, the geophysical context within which we go about this living: rock, water and air. It's still pretty hard to find an appropriate boundary.

I live in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright,1 near the lower end of the valley of the Urr Water. North Glen is the core of a small farm that is half woodland. Starting from my back door, I could walk for days and rarely leave the woods except to cross the roads. Though the Stewartry is known as a farming county, one third of it is wooded. From the hillside behind my house I can see thousands of acres of trees in the Stewartry and neighbouring Dumfriesshire. Sadly, the majority of these are fast growing conifers whose genetic origin is overseas and whose destination (via flush toilet) is the sea.

There are, however, many small and a few larger remnants of semi-wild, semi-native woodland, often including broadleaved species from afar. Many of these trees are standing on steep slopes of the river and creek valleys that were cleared and ploughed at intervals from the early years of settlement until about the time of World War II. These are rich woodlands nevertheless. The soil, though not so deep as it once was, is healing from agricultural abuse and, because of the forest cover, is increasing in fertility. Some has never been ploughed or otherwise 'improved'. The plant communities consist of a few Scots pines (whose nativity is in doubt, being absent from the pollen record) and a great diversity of hardwoods, shrubs, and wildflowers.

from the watershed to the waterfoot

The history of these now-forested slopes over the centuries of human occupation can be characterised as a cyclic alternation of abuse and neglect. Their best hope, so far, has been neglect-though even neglect has usually involved their degradation by livestock grazing. So far, almost nobody has tried to figure out or has even wondered what might be the best use and the best care for such places. Often the trees have been regarded merely as the occupants of 'waste ground', which, because of the steepness of the terrain, has been unavailable for better use. Much of the relatively recent conifer forest has been a last resort use after centuries of overgrazing. Ploughing vertically to improve drainage prior to planting has increased acidification, erosion, & siltation in the watercourses and destruction of gravel beds with disruptive effects on aquatic life, from the bottom of the food chain (at the top) to salmonids, wildfowl and others at the top of the food chain (downriver!)

From the watersheds above Loch Urr to the waterfoot where it meets the open Solway Firth, the Urr Water is no more than 40 kilometres as the crow flies. The river and its tributaries traverse rather more, however. Most of the relatively narrow valley system is a patchwork of fields, conifer plantations and areas of mixed woodland, many of ancient and semi-natural character. Over the watershed to the east lies the Nith Valley and Dumfriesshire, to the west is the Ken/Dee catchment. The "Paddy Line," a rail link which ran from Carlisle to Stranraer, stopping at Dalbeattie was closed and removed in the '60s. The only major motor route crossing the valley is the A75 Euroroute, and there has been very little development in the modern sense. Below the upper tidal limit the area has a sea-faring heritage, as local gravestones testify, and it's probable the first humans arrived by sea, as did Christianity later to nearby Whithorn.

Auchencairn Bay is divided from the foot of the Urr estuary by Almorness peninsula, and interacts with it daily as the tides ebb and flow. At the head of the bay Screel and Bengairn rise to 1200 feet with large areas of conifer forest, heather, waterfalls and semi-natural areas, including Taliesin, an area of old meadow with mixed woodland regeneration. Red squirrels live throughout the valley, as do many other wildlife folk. A relatively low divide separates the Urr from the nearby Dee catchment, and a canal was once planned between Palnackie and Castle Douglas, using only four locks. It remained undug due to the advent of the railway, and the route is now bordered throughout much of its length by woodland of many types.

The largest town is Dalbeattie, six thousand folk with around three thousand acres of public forest as a backyard. Another couple thousand people are distributed downriver between the forest's flank and the river's eastern margins. The port at Dalbeattie which once exported granite for the Thames Embankment, is now largely disused; the only remaining quarry crushes the granite for roadmetal. Kippford is a small sailing resort, and at Rockcliffe there are beaches. There are perhaps another two thousand folk scattered among the valley's farms, hamlets and villages. Except for the Highlands, the Stewartry is the least densely populated part of Scotland.

On the west bank is Buittle, an ancient seat of power and home of Devorguilla, wife to John Balliol, whose heart she buried at Sweetheart Abbey by the Nith. Downriver a couple of miles, Palnackie's port serves occasional cockle boats and some recreational use. Further down, the west bank consists of Almorness peninsula stretching four miles beyond Palnackie, with only three families in occupation, including ourselves. From The Anchor, in Kippford it's impossible to see any buildings on our side, and my neighbour Angus and I speculate on mounting a wildman raid across the river at low tide, painted with woad, yelling and waving spears. We'll shake up the tourists and swank sailors and accept tribute in pints.

urr waterfoot

On still fullmoon nights, the spring tide is highest around midnight, and the double bend below the farm becomes a large lake with hundreds, if not thousands of birds; ducks, waders, allsorts. Overnight guests sometimes complain the birds keep them awake, what with meeting and greeting all their aunts & uncles assembled to await the tide's retreat. On one such night I walked down through the wood to where the canoes are stashed (eight miles to Kippford's two pubs by tarmac & fossil, a few hundred yards by water & metabolic), and launched myself. There was little need to paddle, as I drifted upriver on the rising tide.

When I did get up a bit of speed, there was a phosphorescent double mini bow wave. I tried being very quiet to coast in among a flock of ducks I could just make out. As I got almost near enough to see them properly, they fluttered off a few dozen yards. After thus failing several times, I relaxed and just drifted, disappointed. At slack water I found myself looking up at North Glen on its bluff. I could see Tom's campfire in the treetops and hear the voices of his companions - quite a party. I opened a can and had a smoke, just watching and listening.

The tide turned and took me back down to my launching point, and climbing out of the canoe, I fell in the river . Walked back up through the woods wet and happy. It was several days before I forgave the ducks. "Typical human! We're out here every bloody night, fair or foul, and (once in a blue moon) some creep thinks we won't notice him crashing about on a millpond. Huh! I thought you said they were supposed to be clever!"

Forestry, after farming, is the second largest land use in the Stewartry, but a meagre provider of the promised employment. That which is generated too often feeds bank balances in distant cities. Large forest holdings are more general than small, owners, if human, rarely visiting and even less frequently alighting from their off-road vehicles. To be fair, the relatively large holdings of the Forestry Commission offer the most visited 'attractions' to the small, but economically important tourist trade. Management policy and decisions on these 'publicly-owned' forests are made in distant, carpeted, double-glazed offices by people who are too busy in most cases to ever set foot in them. For these people the forests consist of lines drawn on paper and pages of statistics, or landscape simulations on computer screens. The same is true of most other agencies of the centre, whether focussed on "things" or people. The scale is wrong.

Our larger modern cultural matrix is severely dis-empowered through centuries of such increasingly centralised and abstracted authority. I reckon the commonest pronoun in use is third person plural. The 'improvements' of communications in the broadest sense - roads, motor transport, telecommunications, etc. reach even to Palnackie (pop: ~300); now there's an evening rush hour as local residents return from work, mostly one per auto-mobile.

Decades ago,
We mostly walked to work,
Side by side with friends & neighbours
We worked and walked together,
Ate, drank, fought, loved & raised the young together,
Grew old, returned to local soil together.

Now it's better,
We have improved communications,
Roads & hyperspace, phones, TV, & cyberspace,
Keep us 'in touch' with world events,
Our glazed & insulated capsules keep us safe and warm,
And free from nosy, noisy, noisome neighbours.

This new species,
Encapsulated Humanity
In a migrating herd, following its beaten track,
With unconscious choreography,
The ribbon of steel and red light
Snakes slowly cityward.

The big cat waits,
Sporting fluorescent stripe,
And purring sinew of steel.
From his elevated post,
He watches with laser eye,
Choosing only the swiftest as his prey.

-- "Homo Encapsulata" 1996, Ed Iglehart

Community was easier to identify when, not so long ago, everyone walked to work. It was the folk we walked with, worked with, came home with, drank with, argued with, - in short, those with whom we shared life and locality. Now there is a community at 'work' which is drawn from a 40 mile radius or more, the scene of career strategems, flirtations, betrayals, etc., just as before, but separated from 'home' by some sort of hyperspace journey morning and evening. Mixing with our fellows on the return journey leaves us unfit company for anything but a TV set. This provides what every responsible citizen must have: a complete update on the affairs of the entire global 'community', its wars, inhumanities, & disasters, all thankfully sufficiently distant to be out of reach, but for a conscience-easing credit card donation by toll-free number. When a neighbour dies, we wonder who to notify (if we notice!)

For many, 'home' has become a territory whose size and degree of fortification is in direct relation to financial status, proof against a hostile environment. It's an irony of our time that we who think of ourselves as the age of emerging environmental awareness are also the most accomplished at isolating ourselves mentally, physically, and spiritually. Out of a thousand footsteps it is unlikely that as many as ten fall on un-prepared surfaces. We rarely know the phases of the moon, see wildlife mostly on the cathode ray tube, and scenery through the windscreen. Darkness has been banished by electricity so that the only real difference between night and day is the television schedules. The use of the logically meaningless word 'un-natural', invariably in the pejorative, speaks volumes, for it is used to mean 'human', and such self-hatred cannot be healthy.

But it's easy to be negative, and while our local communities share much of this Euro-American malaise, we are better off than many, being blessed with backwater status (mixed blessing!). Palnackie is a seaport, but it is a long time since it was really on the way to anywhere. Sixty years ago the school was overflowing with farmworkers' and woodcutters' kids; horsedrawn transport served three sawmills down by the harbour and other haulage businesses, a legacy from the coastal trade, and horses still towed boats upriver.

Although the last coaster was in '77, farming manpower has shrivelled, and the best trees were gone by the fifties, we still have a large haulage business, a joinery and building firm (The main partner was the first apprentice (of sorts) at North Glen and then travelled to the antipodes, worked here and there and came home to marry his schoolmate), a scrapyard and skip maker & hirer (Shavins, a sawmiller's son), a pub, shop/cafe, nursing home (yes, we're quite modern in some ways!), caravan site just outside the village, and down river (but up a hill) there's a glass workshop. We have a double handful of fine core families and a two-teacher school, the heart and soul (and future!) of the community.

There are still many folk in Palnackie whose grandparents were born within walking distance. Even so, of the village and surrounding community, only a few walk more than a half mile beyond the houses. The regeneration of communities is a process which may occupy us for a large part of the next millennium, and, as most who have considered these things agree, it cannot be done from without. Few, if any, of us know fully what community really is/was; all consider its demise undesirable. I now suspect that 'improved communications' may not be the unquestioned good we once believed.

In our rural communities we are said to suffer from peripherality (c.f. 'backwater'). We are at a distance from much of mainstream culture, and much of the effort of those who would help is spent in devising ways to strengthen the connections to the dominant and largely urban culture which lies behind the paradigm of globalisation. Those who visit our area usually comment on the slower pace of life, the beautiful countryside, narrow winding roads, the open, friendly character of the folk. Despite chronic unemployment and shifting demography, rural society here is still relatively whole; in conversation with anyone for the first time it's usual to quickly discover friends, aquaintances and favourite places in common. It's not that everyone knows everyone else, but everyone knows pretty well who everyone is. The postie, not being allowed to collect unstamped mail, helps himself from the till, buys stamps in the village, and I get change the next day. A member of SCW,2 he often lingers (We're the second last stop of the day. I know his father, A JP and onetime provost of Castle Douglas). Such a culture has little scope for dishonesty, and there is very little crime.

A constable distributing notice of a meeting has to stop and chat a while (he was in the village youth club when I was leader) The police came to the village hall with their Neighbourhood Watch roadshow; the hall was full as the whole community had been leafleted by hand. They showed a video of streets and talked about break-ins, car theft, vandalism and such, and asked if we had any questions.

Silence. Then John Kirk says, "Well, I was born a quarter mile from here and I've lived all my life in Palnackie. A lot of folk here can say the same. I can't remember anybody's house ever getting burglarised."
"Oh yes. There was Jenny's house got broken into!"
"Aye, but that was the Post Office. And it was thirty year ago!"

It turned out that the complaint which brought the roadshow to town was kids hanging out at the cross, chatting with friends, and occasionally a car would speed off. It's been a meeting place since before there were cars. The occupants of the house on the corner felt it was a nuisance. We got Neighbourhood Watch signs and the kids hang out there a bit less.

When I came here first, I had never lived in one place longer than six years, and in most it had been far less. From the foregoing paragraphs it will be clear that I have developed a strong attachment to my adopted locality, its air, water, & stone, its plants, animals and its people (and ducks!). It's a great privilege to live a long time in one place, especially such a place as this. The detachment from places and their histories which modern living and its migrations and commutings engenders is a sickness of the soul. That many sufferers are unaware of this as a pathology is because it is so normal.

In my three decades here, there have been no less than seven successive District Forest Officers (DFOs) responsible for the 150,000 acres of Forestry Commission woods in the Stewartry. The Dalbeattie Town Wood merges into the rest of the Dalbeattie Forest. There are miles of footways & cycle routes among lochs and hills with areas of forestry in all stages. There's a large user base comprising interests from deep ecology to dog-walking, and the Dalbeattie Forest Community Partnership is developing a growing participation in all aspects of management. Although physically isolated to some degree by the river, I'm an active supporter of these developments, both personally and through Southwest Community Woodlands Trust (SCWT).2,3

Adjoining North Glen and opposite Kippford lies Tornat Wood,4 where many of these lines were written. For at least ten years I have tried to encourage the Forestry Commission to designate it as a community wood for Palnackie, badgering a succession of DFOs. At first, when the opportunity arose, I dragged the man through bracken & briar and got verbal acceptance that amenity should be the dominant value for the wood. Later, when it was in preparation for sale, our community woodland group were in position to buy it, but Scottish Natural Heritage wouldn't make the necessary binding recommendation (SCWT was a new group with no "track record"), and the best we could get was its removal from the disposals list. We then got verbal agreement from the new DFO that it should be managed in partnership with the community council, but progress towards formal partnership is slow (no bad thing?). Local young folk (with some encouragement) have begun to use their own initiative, have cleared and signposted paths and talk of building a bird hide which may do duty as a bothy at times.

At the top of Tornat on a sunny afternoon in a light northeasterly breeze, seagulls and buzzards cry and circle below high jets singlefiling southwards. Across the Solway, the hazy mountains of Cumbria taper down to St Bees Head. Just around the headland, out of sight and long ago, the Queen opened Calder Hall. Britain's nuclear electricity was going to be so cheap it wouldn't need to be metered. The adjoining plutonium recovery facility has been re-named frequently, reflecting its habit of thinking (and lying) globally while acting locally (and shamefully carelessly) - Seascale, Windscale, Sellafield, what next? Never mind, for the moment, it's downwind...and as I muse, company arrives. He retired from North London to Gelston (4 miles away) eight years ago, and we swap favourite walks, talk mountains, lochs and waterfalls and the need to get young folk outdoors. As he is setting off, a father and daughter arrive. He's from East Kilbride, now Dalbeattie, a retired aircraft engineer (Merlin engines), widowed last September. Daughter is cabin crew with BA out of Brighton; grandkids in Dumfries and Arisaig (spoiled by streetlights). He often used to walk in the dark several miles through the forest from Dalbeattie for a pint at the Clonyard. When folk asked "Aren't you afraid?" he replied, "of what?" They have left the car at the port in Palnackie ("It makes us walk!"), and like my earlier visitor, it's the first time they're come this way, thanks to the kids' pathwork and signs - wonderful!

The sun is warm and from the opposite quarter to the wind. I settle down in the lee of a tussocky outcrop and enjoy the vista of bracken, down and brown, with green emerging on the gametrails (just). A young larch in the middle of the bracken has made a complete corkscrew turn, but has now sorted out vertical with its leader; on the east, white birches and green pines edge the meadow, and over the steeper western edge the tops of oak, beech and sycamore are still bare of leaves. In dead centre sits Rough Island, its causeway and the flats clear, but the river's channel is nearly full and will soon overflow as the tide rises. Further down the estuary the channel swings in close to Gibbs Hole and its wood, mixed and full of bluebells. The Granite outcrops still have iron anchor rings for seagoing sailing ships. A path, formerly a cart track, can be followed from the anchorage through mature broadleaf woods along the base of the peninsula to South Glen, and Palnackie passing Tornat and North Glen. This served ships unable to wait for larger tides, or with small amounts of cargo to discharge.

Above the broadleaves, Castle Hill has been clear felled (and, sadly, replanted in spruce) providing a magnificent 360 degree viewpoint until the new trees get away. I could walk to Almorness House, beating the tide across the mudflats, and thence to the hilltop and home the long way, but it's too nice here in the sunshine and out of the breeze. A falcon flies from right to left, low grey and smallish (a Hobby?) and down through the pines. I think he saw me lying here, still but not camouflaged. Cock pheasants crow and fly across; the hens will be hidden in cover, sitting on eggs.

The settlements and windmills are visible in the distance on the English side. Across the river at Kippford, there are boats on the mud and larches just greening among the evergreen slopes above the village. The Muckle Lands are a high bluff of bracken and stone crossed by the new power line, which marches from Dalbeattie straight through the National Scenic Area, where planners won't easily allow a doghouse. The power grid apparently has eminent domain, and Kippford now has streetlights, over the objections of most residents. Scenery apparently only matters in the daytime.

The sun is trying to go down, so I set off down the meadow and swing around the west face through beech, sycamore larch & oak. The ground is covered with long green bluebell leaves and moss - very little grass. The buzzard's nest is quiet for the present, as is the rookery, and the dogs explore rabbit holes and chase squirrel scents. As I follow the contour (musn't lose height!), a bright flash of light is reflected from one of Angus' ditches as I pass through alignment with the slanting sunlight. It cuts the alluvium parallel to the shoreline some 300m away, efficiently flowing between twin, straight fencelines enclosing bare banks. A horse is grazing and lambs are calling to their mothers. The farmhouse is quiet.

Further along, dropping out of the wood and onto the track, I stop to lean on the Glen Gate, where Palnackie folk would come to look out to Gibbs Hole to see what ships were tied up. When Annabel was young, we used to pause here, and she would go up into the wood to a pretend kitchen in a tumble of boulders, and prepare an imaginary cup of tea for us to sip while we leaned on the gate and looked out to sea. The pond and channel here supplied water power for a horse-drawn itinerant threshing mill, and perhaps at other times, but was insufficient for continuous use.

I have trees on other folks' land, and not all of them know. It's natural regeneration, phantom treeplanting. The ash people have learned that survival is aided by sprouting right next to a young hawthorn, and this successful pairing is common around here. Noting this, I have evolved a mixed relationship with the bramble people and others of their ilk. In places on behalf of the bluebell folk and others, I've made war on them, and in others I've planted native trees among them (protected by their hostile nature from cattle and sheep, and from rabbits by plastic) which will eventually form woodland canopy from Tornat halfway to Palnackie, and this may be extended to the village and beyond towards Kirkennan and Munches. Both of these relatively small estates are rehabilitating and extending native woodland bordering the river. Their larger woods, actively managed for two centuries or more, contain many fine trees, native and exotic.

Over the rise and approaching home I visit one of my favourite trees. Part of the hedge along the roadside, its roots are under the road, but one branch escaped the hedge-mangling flail by extending itself horizontally until out of reach and has since grown to a goodsized trunk, while still keeping up the hedge-disguise on its flank. I've sometimes pointed it out to children as "the tree that got away," and speculated that someday it will be blown over and lift a great hole in the road. I imagine them with their own children: "Do you remember old Ed? He used to say this would happen."

Tom Niven, whose father (also Tom) owns the fields next to the village, proposed reinstating the towpath from the port at Palnackie downriver to Tornat as a "millennium trail." Angus, who owns the rest of the riverside, was in full agreement, but after much enthusiasm and support from officials and residents, the project had to be abandoned (postponed?) because the owner of the first fifty meters denies the right of way. There is little doubt that recourse to law would confirm a right, but patient counsel prevailed. In the meantime, Tom & Angus have contributed a wee bit of steep land where their fields adjoin as a millennium viewpoint beside the Glen Road. It has been levelled and dyked; bulbs and a couple of trees planted (The hedge already has two good oaks emerging, thanks to ribbons tied to confuse the hedge-mangler).3

Sam Thornely has gotten a millennium award to make furniture for the viewpoint, for which he's set up a greenwood workspace in a tipi at North Glen. He's involving the Palnackie schoolchildren (and me), helping them establish a tree nursery at the school, using seedlings they collected from the wood next to the school. The wood for the furniture is mostly windblown oak from Kirkennan wood, and a couple of weeks ago, the 'big room' kids. teacher and a couple of parents went up into the wood to see Sam free a butt from its rootplate and cleave it in half. Boggy, (a traveller) and Pinky (his horse) then pulled the halves down to the road.

As we walked up to the location, two wee girls updated me on their progress in reading the Lord of the Rings in class. I saw the first swallow today,3 and a few flower spikes on the bluebells. After the holidays (but before the bracken is up) we'll lead an expedition to Tornat to see the bluebells and other things. It's a wonderful place for dens.

"To put the bounty and the health of our land, our only commonwealth, into the hands of people who do not live on it and share its fate will always be an error. For whatever determines the fortune of the land determines also the fortune of the people. If... history... teaches anything, it teaches that." -- Wendell Berry, Another Turn of the Crank, 1995

Ed Iglehart 15/04/2000


1. To avoid (or admit) the charge of plagiarism, I must be explicit. The form and structure of these three paragraphs are directly derived from the opening paragraphs used by Wendell Berry in his essay, "Conserving Forest Communities," in Another Turn of the Crank (1995). They formed the opening of a letter I wrote to Berry, a few years ago, asking if it would be ok to copy bits of his essays (or even whole essays) for distribution amongst fellow local activists. He replied in pencil, saying it would indeed be nice to chat, should we be in each other's vicinity, a friendly greeting, but no answer to the request. In the opening to another, earlier essay, he writes:

"In this Christmassy atmosphere, an essayist must be aware of the danger of becoming just one more in this mob of drummers. He (as a matter of syntactical convenience, I am speaking only of men essayists) had better understand with some care what it is that he has to sell, what he has to give away, and certainly also what he may have that nobody else will want.
I do have an interest in this book, which is for sale. (If you have bought it, dear reader, I thank you. If you have borrowed it, I honor your frugality. If you have stolen it, may it add to your confusion.) Most of the sale price pays the publisher for paper, ink, and other materials, for editorial advice, copyediting, design, advertising (I hope), and marketing. I get between 10 and 15 percent (depending on sales) for arranging the words on the pages.
As I understand it, I am being paid only for my work in arranging the words; my property is that arrangement. The thoughts in this book, on the contrary, are not mine. They came freely to me, and I give them freely away. I have no "intellectual property," and I think that all claimants to such property are thieves."

from "The Joys of Sales Resistance" in What are People for?

The plain fact is: I have accepted the gift of the ideas, copied (borrowed, stolen?) the arrangement, and substituted the details to fit my situation. Relatively few substitutions were needed, and that was the point. Gradually, the structure and the words become more and more my own. As with Wendell, the thoughts have come freely to me and I expend considerable effort to share them. Some of the text became part of an article published in the local newspaper. 3 I might equally well have used Thoreau:

"AT A CERTAIN season of our life we are accustomed to consider every spot as the possible site of a house. I have thus surveyed the country on every side within a dozen miles of where I live. In imagination I have bought all the farms in succession, for all were to be bought, and I knew their price. I walked over each farmer's premises, tasted his wild apples, discoursed on husbandry with him, took his farm at his price, at any price, mortgaging it to him in my mind; even put a higher price on it- took everything but a deed of it- took his word for his deed, for I dearly love to talk- cultivated it, and him too to some extent, I trust, and withdrew when I had enjoyed it long enough, leaving him to carry it on....Wherever I sat, there I might live, and the landscape radiated from me accordingly....Well, there I might live, I said; and there I did live, for an hour, a summer and a winter life; saw how I could let the years run off, buffet the winter through, and see the spring come in.
The future inhabitants of this region, wherever they may place their houses, may be sure that they have been anticipated....and then I let it lie, fallow, perchance, for a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone."

2. 1n 1995, the Millennium Forest stirred the enthusiasm of many people, proposing to extend and improve native woodland areas all over Scotland and re-establish and strengthen the connections between communities and their local natural history. A local voluntary association, Southwest Community Woodlands (SCW) formed, its core being made up of folk whose interests in local environmental matters had come together earlier in response to proposals to bury nuclear waste in the granite hills at the heart of the Galloway Forest Park, the bulk of which lies in the west of the Stewartry. Reforesting Scotland, which developed from Bernard Planterose's "Tree Planter's Guide to the Galaxy", also continues to be very influential for a number of us. Southwest Community Woodlands Trust (SCWT) was formed to provide the corporate identity required by funding bodies, most notably the Millennium Forest for Scotland Trust (MFST).

the dream emerges...

A divergence of priorities between MFST, (countable trees and hectares) and SCWT (people, plants, creatures, places and their relationships) resulted in a cordial(?) separation, and SCWT continues to develop in association with a number of local initiatives, including riparian planting along the upper Urr and elsewhere, native tree nurseries, and the creation of a community woodland centre at Taliesin.

3. See Appendix

4. tornat.html


Further material on the ongoing relationship between self, soul and community may be found at

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