Rachel McCann lives in and loves Scotland where she is involved in therapeutic gardening, creative arts, activism and community. Her piece is about Camas centre, a place where she has been a volunteer, centre co-ordinator, and a member of the management committee.
‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.
The second best time is now’ - Chinese Proverb.
Last night I slept in a small wooden cabin surrounded by trees I helped to plant twenty years ago. This is my idea of bliss. Camas Centre is an outdoor centre on the island of Mull in Scotland. The groups that visit are mainly vulnerable young people. They come for a week in community and to experience nature. On a freezing New Year’s Day we planted 250 native trees. The air was nipping our skin but with joy we saw rowan, hazel, ash, alder and more go into the ground. With each tree I planted, I placed my hands on the earth and said a short prayer - a blessing for protection and growth. The landscape of Mull shows the scars of the brutal Highland Clearances when people, communities and trees made way for sheep and landowners. Planting these trees was a small but sacred act of hope, a way of re-membering what was lost.
To revisit them now they are grown is a beautiful experience. Each one has an individual character, texture and colour. Light and shade flicker and bounce through leaves and branches. Notably there are now chaffinches and tits and sparrows and birdsong. Many people at Camas have planted more trees, and the current staff will be planting more in the coming months after a donation by the Woodland Trust.
The Best Time to Plant a Tree © Rachel McCann 2017
When I moved back to my adopted homeland of Scotland, I asked for guidance on what my calling and purpose was there. ‘Place your hands in the soil’ were the clear and comforting words I heard.
A little later I was passing an old community hall. Behind the building was an overgrown, cluttered plot of land, just waiting to be loved and cared for. ‘Place your hands in the soil’ was a call to creativity and so I began a small but productive community garden.
With a lot of passion and persistence, we now have a beautiful space, rich in its abundance, both of home grown fruit and vegetables, and rich in building friendships and community. We have pensioners, toddlers, a forest school and several individuals enjoying the space. If you see some common land that can be used, just ‘place your hands in the soil’ and dream!
Place Your Hands in the Soil © Rachel McCann 2016