Thursday, 4 August 2022

 A Forest Sounds Like a Ship at Sea:

Trees of Ireland in New York State! Part 1

Day 16: Remote Residency at Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen, Ireland, 7/18/22 to 8/13/22,  Maria Driscoll McMahon checking in from New York State

Today was also a great day - this time a day of research as I dove into further familiarizing myself with trees that are native to Ireland -  many of which I've listed below.  Since I learned from an arborist at Cornell Botanical Gardens that the Sessile Oak tree is Ireland's National tree,  I'll start the list with that, but I also learned there are two species of Oak trees in Ireland. 

The Trees of Ireland:  

You may recall an earlier post which discussed how the ancient Irish were considered a "forest people" because up until 5,000 years ago, ninety percent of Ireland was covered in forests. The percentage is now only about two percent woodland, but the forests I was able to visit when I was there were "old growth" and breathtakingly beautiful. 

I believe these are Sessile Oaks on Knockomagh Hill which flanks Lough Hyne in Skibbereen, Ireland. 

I spent considerable time watching fascinating You Tube videos presented by Aengus Kennedy via a series called Nature NorthWest about various species of native Irish trees including the Sessile Oak, the beautiful Scots PineAspenBirch, and Rowan

I wanted to find out which of the trees native to Ireland could also be found (in some variation) here near the border between Pennsylvania and New York State so I also spent quite some time getting seriously acquainted with the Cornell Botanical Gardens website, focusing, of course, on the F.R. Newman Arboretum I next watched probably a dozen videos in the Woody Plants Database - also through Cornell. 

Best of all, I heard from the lead arborist there, Daniel Weitoish, who was more than happy to direct me and answer questions.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn all the trees native to Ireland  - the ones I asked about - are present on Cornell's grounds! Some are mature and some are young, but I am delighted that all are represented.  The Cornell data base makes it easy to find specific trees using the Plant Explorer Tool which includes maps! Trees are also marked with "accession tags." 

When I began this project, I wasn't completely sure what form the art would take. I decided the medium would be drawing/animation/projection, but I knew the content would require research and have sufficient time to evolve.

Taking inspiration from "Overstory" in which the author, Richard Powers, anthropomorphizes trees in a way that is fully informed by science,  I have been trying to determine which of the trees common to both Ireland and Pennsylvania possess the qualities inherent in my Irish paternal ancestor, Cornelius.  This determination is necessary to further inform the content of my project. 

With the research I did today,  I think I have finally found this tree! I'm not ready for "the reveal" just yet,  but here are some clues: it's a "pioneer tree" of "new beginnings," hardy, tough, has many layers and  improves the soil...

I could not match the tree with the human being without all the preparation I've done - some of which happened even before the residency started.

With all the groundwork done today replete with research and "eureka!" moments,  I can't wait to drive to Cornell tomorrow to meet the actual trees of Ireland!

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