Something in the Trees


oil painting by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of trees at night, Co. Donegal
“In the trees”, 30 x 30cm, oil on canvas, 2013

From earliest time, trees have been respected and revered. They were our lofty guardians. As a single tree provides shade to the traveller, collectively trees protect all life on this planet. They provide a habitat for a wide variety of smaller plants, animals, birds, insects, spiders (ugh) and micro-organisms. But trees as a work of art – that’s extra special, I think.

And there’s a wonderful example of this to be seen in a forest near Grianán an Aileach in Co. Donegal.  It’s a Celtic cross, one hundred metres long, comprised of thousands of deciduous trees. At this time of year, it can be seen in all its autumnal glory, as you fly into the City of Derry Airport.

It was on television the other night, a report by UTV’s Gareth Wilkinson (and I have a link to that report below).  This beautiful project was the brainchild of forester Liam Emmery. The poor man died a few years ago, aged just 51, but his creation will live on for fifty or sixty 60 years more. I think perhaps he’s up there now, watching over his forest and grinning in delight at all the attention it is receiving.

a photograph of the celtic cross seen in a forest near Grianán an Aileach, Co. Donegal
The Celtic Cross in a forest near Grianán an Aileach, Co. Donegal

In Celtic folklore, Hallowe’en or Samhain marked the end of one year and the passing into the next and it was believed that at this time, a window into the ‘otherworld’ was temporarily opened so that mortals and spirits could communicate. The souls of the dead were thought to return home for this one night and therefore candles were lit, prayers were offered and then, there was great feasting and fun.

But the walking zombies, the vampires and ghouls, the crazy artificial cobwebs…  Where did this amaidí come from, I wonder.  For me, as a reminder of our ancestors, I think I’d prefer the cross in the woods.





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