Wednesday, March 18, 2020

succession: a season clock

measure of distance   pace

succession of colours   seasons
The term succession comes from the observation of bees and the blossoms they feed on in the spring. It can be used to refer to the natural order of all species and how this is expressed locally. This concept offers walkers an opportunity to reflect on natural events throughout the year and how these relate.

By noting these down people will become more aware of what has past and is to come, tuning in to buds, blossoms, leaves, or fruit.

Succession has particular significance as climate breakdown interferes with these natural orders. The photo shows a succession beehive I made at Brogdale where the National Fruit Collection is based.

I am inviting walkers and walking groups to walk a route weekly and note specific trees that offer markers for a time of year – spring buds and blossoms, summer leaves and autumn fruits. I imagine the year stretching from blackthorn blossom to hazel nut. 

The first group to take this task on is in Kemnay. Some of the local place-names there suggest colours that relate to flora: 

Broom Haugh
Dalriach, tawnyfield
Fernbank; Whitehaugh

It would be interesting to consider names as a guide to succession.

This poem below was made with the poet Gerry loose, and it gives a brief example of how this might work, with chanterelles as a surprise element. 

People can consider what things they see on a walk and how these relate in terms of time. I suggest choosing things in pairs that are related in a place and a time, i.e. a this that follows a that, bud is filled by leaf, leaf by fruit.  These pairs make like simple poems that relate to specific places and relationships, helping walkers to be attentive to flora and ecology. 

The effect would be a mapping of walks which generates a poetic sense of local flora. It could even inspire some planting.

the hawthorn in bud
the blackthorn in blossom

the crab apple in bud
the gean in blossom

the lime in leaf
the oak in bud

the ash in seed
the chanterelles are up

the hazel in nut
the rowan in berry

Some further thoughts on succession:

wild time is measured in buds, blossom, fruits and floods

the recent confusion of the season-clock is our doing

the-this-in-bud and the-that-in-bloom which we see along the season path compose sequences of colours

succession is something like fashion: each colour has its time

paths exist to suggest that nature has a sense of measure when it is rife with chaos

the wild year has no standard measure of time
only an arc marked by fluctuations in growth and diminution

a path is a poem of wild things, each one appearing in their own time, as if they were images

a path can be read as an almanac

the habits of our walk are a habitat

the path runs lines of light through the wood

on October walks the sun’s heat is local
like the snarled ribbons Schuyler describes

this morning there was the first snow lying on the hills

blackthorn blooms in late March or early April; if a late frost harms the blossom it is known as Blackthorn Winter

an avenue of beech trees can hold a century of wind

slow down
there are leaves falling

walk through the rain
step around the puddles

as I walk the powder
snow smile grows
on the toes of my boots

an interval in the rain 
the length of a walk

the walk’s lit up
by a strobing aspen

in the Scottish winter you can take a night walk
in the middle of the afternoon

a winter walk with the sun facing sideways
the trees with their twigs iced up and all
the air sucked out of them

our shadows reach further when we walk than when we sit

hawthorn can lead you to blackthorn

step quietly, the trees are asleep

no walker feels he is disqualified from expressing
an opinion about the weather

weather is an active component in the distance of any walk

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