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Emotionally we derive from nature pleasure, fulfillment, inspiration and solace; nature is fundamental to our culture, language, psychological and spiritual well-being (Irish Environmental Information Service).

Plants and trees shape imagination, they are alive symbols rich in social history, customs and beliefs.  Historically they are emblems that inspire stories, poetry, and folklore. As living landmarks, they designate boundaries, record historic events, offer medicinal cures, and  become gathering places for communities.

May Bush

Tree and plant folklore in Ireland is rich with psychological references. Gathering bundles of plants for protection, influence, love, prosperity, and good health are a strong cultural tradition. All Celtic seasons involve the psyche within the dynamics of seasonal activity. Propagation, harvest, death and new growth are all reflected within particular seasonal intentions. Each Celtic season has customs associated with physical and psychological processes connected to change.

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The great ideas in art often manifest in very humble forms, through a small area of colour, or through a green tone around a certain small form, or for instance through an olive leaf.

Agriculture is a question of art, which for me is is the engagement with substances. In other words, if one understands the spirit of substances, one can only really do agriculture. (Quotation by Joseph Beuys, What Is Art?).

Traditional herbalism promotes the restorative aspects of plants often mistaken for weeds. Charms and rituals were also connected to the picking and bundling of herbs, which would offer support during times of distress or aid in the acquisition of good luck. Dressing trees for May Day, promised fertility and abundance. Lighting a fire for Samhain (Halloween or Summer’s End) produced the fertilizing ashes for the next growing year, and distributed in its smoke the hopes and wishes of the community.

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The production of amulets made from natural materials, are sculptural forms that can be carried by children and adults for a specific purpose. A bundle of symbolic natural materials, can act as a hand held sculpture. Collected while wandering through forests or naturalized areas, each plant and tree ingredient can have a particular meaning, and collectively act as an assemblage of influences from nature and the world at large.

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Lisa Lipsett, a Canadian artist and environmental educator, believes that an empathic relationship to nature through touch, develops attention, contemplative action and spontaneity. Using nature as an outdoor studio, inspires art forms that can be embraced in a different way than bought art materials. The discovery of shape, texture and use of each found environmental art material, creates a composition of many influences, evoking a  personal ecology.

References 

Lisa Lipsett, http://lisalipsett.com/

Niall MacCoitir, Irish Wild Plants: Myths, Legends and Folklore

Ben Simon, Tales, Traditions and Folklore of Ireland’s Trees

Volker Harlan (editor) What is Art? Conversations with Joseph Beuys

Photos

St. Brigid’s Well, Northern Ireland

The May Bush (An Irish Traditional Symbol for Protection)

Young Girl with Bouquet Headdress

Children participating in Land Art Workshops, County Louth, Ireland 

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Community celebrations can be improvised happenings where the spirit of people and the energy of the landscape combine to produce an ecology of meaningful associations. Cultivating new ground for gatherings and productivity can also create a new local landmark. Re-visioning and re-shaping the everyday, into something unusual and fascinating, can be both an art form and form of social activism. Our landscape is influenced by nature and culture, and our relationship to places. Enacting rituals, improvising with others, sharing stories, poems, and social history, celebrates meaning within diversity.

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Within the thoroughfares of everyday life, growth emerges. The intentions of many people produce happenings, and an adrenalin rush aimed at living within the pulse of a social naturescape. The eagerness by which community members (of all ages) participate in celebrations, is like a craving to be engaged more deeply with the people and landscapes that surround them. The desire to create, nurture and act out in public is a feature of community celebrations within everyday places. The local landscape is also the terrain of guerrilla gardeners and artists. What we pass by everyday can be a canvas for social action.

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Common Ground Rules for Local Distinctiveness 

Local distinctiveness is about landscapes, buildings, customs, folklore, histories, art, diverse natures (biodiversity), languages, and the many ways people inhabit common lands.

The ephemeral and invisible are important too: customs, dialects, celebrations, names, recipes, spoken history, myths, legends and symbols. All these things are folded into identity. Localities are always open to outside influences, new people, ideas, activities,  and just as nature keeps experimenting, localities must face the paradox of persistence and change…Often it is the commonplace things, the locally abundant that we take for granted and let slip through our fingers (Sue Clifford and Angela King, Common Ground, http://www.commonground.org.uk).

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References

Refer to http://www.groundswell.ie and click blogs for a list of case studies regarding community gardens including celebrations.

Common Ground http://www.commonground.org.uk is an arts and environment organisation championing local distinctiveness, popular democratic involvement, and celebration as the starting point for improving everyday places.

Photos

Blackrock Playground Garden Celebration, County Louth, Ireland

Peace Pilgrims Parade, St. Peter’s National School, County Louth, Ireland

The Tree Tribes Parade, Launch of National Tree Week in Ireland