Spirit of Place

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the September 27, 2006 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Sacred grove

h4>by Catherine Joyce

There is a story in every stand of trees, every meadow and leaf-strewn creek. As the light changes with the hour and the season, shadows deepen into mystery. We slow down, privileged to see into the hidden life breathing around us. Adrienne Herron walks such a storyline every day on a neighbouring estate.

For eighteen years she has photographed this place. For her it is a sacred grove of such beauty and serenity she stands in awe of its power to renew and inspire.

"When you look at all the strife in the world, you wonder how we can be so destructive. Nature is so delicate. Just being there softens you, makes you gentler and more protective. Living in cities, at the fast pace of today, we can lose touch with such vulnerability."

A circle of tall birches arcs over the green grass, spreading shadows across the meadow. They sway in the wind, their leaves shot through with the golden light of late afternoon. Majestic, they rise like sentinels over ferns in summer, snow in winter; some are still bent from the ice storm. Together they create a web of life, a fragile, luminous shelter where Adrienne captures their life force in photographs of colour and motion.

Spirit of Place
Adrienne Herron has photographed this stand of trees, her sacred grove of beauty and serenity, for 18 years. Photo courtesy Catherine Joyce.

From high in the hills pure mountain water flows across wetlands, crosses the road and becomes a clear running stream that carves its path through sand and clay, rushing over rocks as it gains momentum and disappears into the green. Across the meadow milkweed and aster, raspberry and hawthorn berry, Black-eyed Susan and Queen Ann's lace, goldenrod and grape vines weave through the tall grasses where ancient apple trees drop their windfall for bear and deer.

The light comes down as silence. Stillness. Solitude.

"It takes time to celebrate beauty," Adrienne observes. "You have to sink into the landscape - to learn how to live in eternal time. We've lost the art of knowing about the land, of knowing the names of things, of being familiar with what is around us. The forest is so alive, you have to feel its essence in your soul to be able to share in that communion, that silent conversation. There is a quality of purity, of total goodness that Nature imparts."

In photographing this sacred grove Adrienne finds new meaning in the words of the Persian poet, Rumi, "Let the beauty of what we love be what we do."

We all have special places that speak to us. They may have come to us as children, establishing roots that we call home. Or they may come to us later in life, as revelation, lifting us out of our everyday selves and giving us back that sense of enchantment we knew when young. From time to time I will be writing about such places in the Gatineau Hills - this is my second piece. If you would like to share a treasured landscape, please contact me at the Low Down.

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