Folk art in the forest

The forest is my palette. The flora, the fauna — they inspire me. I am so lucky to have an acreage at my disposal. I’ve created walking paths and gardens. Over the last few years I’ve enjoyed yarn bombing the forest paths I’ve created. It is a great way to create pattern swatches and use up bits of yarn too.

I love medieval history, especially Celtic medieval history. I imagine my ancestors living in a small stone cottage on the Scottish moors or perhaps in an Irish forest. The ancestors might have lived with a group of other people — helping each other with food production, livestock caring, and other living activities. I image they might have lived under the shadow of Beltany, a stone circle in County Donegal, in north-western Ireland. It’s a place of worship, and a place of meeting for market days.

In 2010 Roger, my husband, my sister Marie, and I visited Scotland and the Lake District of northern England. A memorable highlight of the trip was a visit to Long Meg and her Daughters. A spectacular stone circle, it is found near Penrith. Then on Rob Roy Way — a 125 km walk north of Glasgow — we found more stone circles. On the Public Path to Pitlochry (our last day of walking) we found a small stone circle tucked into a forest glade just off the path.

Combining my forest, my love of history, and my love of creating things, my 2015 outside art project highlights St. Brigid — a medieval hero of mine. From an early age, St. Brigid showed an extraordinary spirituality along with boundless charity and compassion for those in need. She was born in 451 AD in Faughart near Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland. Her mother, Brocca, a Christian, was a slave to Dubhthach, Chieftain of Leinster.

Around 480 AD she founded a monastery at Cell Dara (Kildare). The “Church of the Oak” was built on the site of an older pagan shrine to the Celtic goddess Brigid. St. Brigid cared for widows and orphans at the monastery as well as creating the first communal religious life for women in Ireland. St. Brigid founded a school of art, including metal work and illumination. Under Conleth — a hermit from Old Connell near Newbridge — the school became a centre of learning and spirituality. St. Brigid died in 523 AD.

My 2015 St. Brigid project includes a path leading into a forest glade. Roger found and hauled back some large rocks to create a stone circle. Not as big as the originals, it is still a spectacular addition to my project. I have named it Little Nel and her Daughters after my two beautiful girls and me.

Roger and I built some wood/ rock figures and they are now dressed in medieval costume. The wood came from our winter woodpile. And while I have taken creative licence with the materials for clothing, I used what I found in my craft truck; it is great when I can use items on hand instead of buying new supplies.

The peasant folk near the standing stones represent people coming to the stone circle. Are they coming for a pilgrimage or perhaps just for a day at the market? Imagination is a wonderful tool in our modern life.

I share my forest with a fox, deer, and grouse. While I walk along my path, my eyes create pictures for me to enjoy. Life is art.

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