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The Verge, A Blog Post by Caroline Dear

At the moment many thoughts and emotions are passing through me in response to the Covid situation. I have questions about what the future can be, about what is normal, about what is really important in life and about what I can contribute?

At the start of the lockdown I felt a sense of relief, the world could take a break and breathe. I have this sense of us charging, lemming like, over the cliff and any pause or obstacle gives us a chance to remove the blinkers and reassess our location and direction. Now we need to be clear about where we are and where we are heading and alter direction appropriately.

Noticing where we are both physically and metaphorically is something this time is good for. At the moment I am even more appreciative of my close environment; the plants along the roadside verge, the changing surface of the sea, the wind reflected in the bending plants. This is when we need to take time to stand and stare, to observe the ants, to watch clouds become monsters and to recover our child’s eye and sense of space and time. The world around us is a complicated, interrelated, entangled place with us humans forming a small part of this entanglement. It is only by noticing the small things, the local ordinary things that we can begin to value them.

Recently I have been doing a project looking at the roadside verge. Through a series of verge walks last summer we explored various local verges, in different weather. With looking closely, naming plants and sharing stories we each began to see familiar places in new ways, learning to value what we have by observing more. The roadside verge is a place which is both very specific, a plant refuge for rare and undervalued plants, but also a place of connection, linking places and people. It is a common space and as such is used creatively by people.

The film shows an earlier project, entwined / suainte, where, each day, I gathered a plant from my local area and made a short length of rope from it. Through this daily gathering I noticed more about my local environment and came to use some plants I had not previously worked with such as dandelions. Often noticing a plant leads to finding out more about it, the Gaelic name for dandelion, beàrnan Brìde, holds layers of knowledge. Brìde refers to the pre christian Bride as well as to Saint Brigid, the Irish saint, whilst beàrnan refers to notched or gapped, linked to the notched leaves of the dandelion. Another meaning for beàrnan highlights how it was ‘frequently applied to the bells of Irish saints’ (Gillies 1938), bringing us to St.Brigid also associated with spring, when the dandelion bloom.

I would encourage you to observe your local verge, notice changes in the season, new plants, litter, people’s interactions. Enjoy getting lost in the edge, this Cinderella space and use your local to connect to wider habitats and different views.


Reference - Gillies, W. (1938) In Famed Breadlabane: The Story of the Antiquities, Lands and People of a Highland district. Famedram: Ellon

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