I make my way through the damp, cold, wet streets of the New Town. Buildings, which loom over me, assimilate themselves into the dreich, dreariness of the weather, complementing my mood.
I pass by the small row of colonies on Glenogle Road, turning right onto Bell Place, walking in a northerly direction towards the Water of Leith. I climb the small steps that lead me to the bridge situated at the end of this quaint Victorian side street and, once over, take a sharp left onto Rocheid Path. I follow this muddy path – which runs adjacent to the river – passing small woodlands on either side. Apprehensive, nervous…each step I take fuelled by anxiety. Still, I keep moving forward with an innate knowledge that change is in the air.
I cross the road, making my way to a small stretch of woodland known locally as Lover’s Lane. At the entrance to this lane, I see, to my right, steps with a steep incline to a metal gate, and beyond that, my destination, New Caledonian Woodlands – a charity and social enterprise whose aim is to encourage environmental sustainability, whilst supporting people to improve their mental well-being, confidence, self-belief and skills through their People Projects; Fruitful Woods, Good Woods, Fruitful Woods Collective and Branching Out. I had arrived. The year, 2016. The month, November. And, although still officially late autumn, winter was slowly, gradually getting ready for its rebirth. But, my journey – mapped out over two years – had only just begun as I was welcomed, on this bleak November day, as a volunteer to Fruitful Woods.
I tentatively worked through that first year developing skills and knowledge in green woodworking and woodland management. I discovered that I loved working in the woodlands, immersed in nature and found deep solace in the mindful process of carving a wood object. I began to notice that I was being drawn towards nature more and started working with flowers to create photographic images. This, in turn, led me to undertake a course in Botanical Illustration at The Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh. I charted my progress through a journal, noting that it was time to step back from a career I had successfully built over twenty years and, somehow, find a new role that would allow me to work alongside Nature. And, on 29 August 2017, I was offered a way in. Invited to join Fruitful Woods Collective as a self-employed Maker.
The year, 2018. The month, October. The fifth day. I sit with a circle of friends, colleagues and staff at New Caledonians Woodlands, silently carving wood around a lively fire – its flames leaping and circling high into the air – within a small secluded wood in Edinburgh. Trees, stretched high above me, reach into the crisp, blue sky. Their leaves ethereally illuminated by the bright, autumnal sun. A silent calmness envelops us.
I walk, from one place to another around this small wood. A friend points out the artwork I donated to New Caledonian Woodlands last year. A series of eight photographs and a small written prose, nailed to circular pieces of wood, have faded over time. Rust seeps into the images and nature slowly, carefully, wraps itself around and over. I will leave this when I move on from here. An offering, a gift.
My senses slowly devour this moment of unfolding memories. The people. The friendships formed. The smells. The silent conversations. The autumnal colours. The shared secrets of knowledge. And, the warmth of the fire on my face, complementing my mood.
Back home, I add the final touches to my artwork, Lady of the Woods. Two separate entities merge. The circle closes. Change, a new destination, has arrived.
Lady of the Woods…a salute to all that is New Caledonian Woodlands.
Steeped in ancient Celtic symbolism, Lady of the Woods represents new beginnings, growth, expansion and self-realisation. Inspired by the Birch Tree and its connection to the Welsh Goddess Blodeuwedd. Her dual aspects of flower maiden and owl, represented through the mediums of photography and woodcraft will be exhibitied at Out of Sight Out of Mind, the biggest show of its kind in Scotland. All welcome.
See below for details.