Finding The Wild
As the sun sinks low on a dark winter evening and the howling winds strip leaves off the trees a shadow of ancient times, the Cailleach, slips down from Mount Seskin. Each year she returns to the hills and vales of South Dublin and frost glints at her footsteps heralding the start of winter. The light of the moon and stars are at her fingertips and she shines a light on what has changed over the year. The Cailleach sees all this through the eyes of her creatures, the raven her eyes in the sky and the fox her ears and eyes on the ground.
The raven swoops through the clouds, hovers over hills and valleys, perches above gardens and alleys. What were once forests, marshes and farms have been transformed over time into countless rows of houses, a grid of endless roads and giant walls of glass and steel. Rivers and streams still flow through the fields, towns and villages but now human detritus accumulates in the water weeds like garish floating islands.
A shadow, a glimpse of red, moves silently through the spaces between. She is red fox. Over the past year the world around her has changed, people’s lives disrupted and threatened by something unseen so that they retreated into their homes. Many were completely alone. The world fell almost silent. Time stood still
Birds found new voices in clearer skies. Creatures felt free to roam and Nature had new meaning for many people as they discovered pathways to peace of mind. Some discovered mysterious trails of painted stones and patterns in the earth. People planted their wishes and dreams for safer and happier times. As they walked and walked they rediscovered tracks and traces of nature and realised that they were not the only creatures living in South Dublin.
Now, its winter, and life survives in earth and under stone, hiding in roots, between paving slabs and tree cracks - safe havens where messages are relayed through living fungal networks. Crawling between brickwork and beams insects find warmth in human shelters. Hedgehogs curl under leaf piles. Pipistrelle, tiny bats nest in dark hollows of abandoned buildings, hardly heard at high frequencies of sound.
Salmon, sea trout, eels and loach, minnows, lamprey, stickleback, perch, rudd, stone, pike and roach abound in the rivers secretly flowing under roads and paths. Concealed by reeds and pennywort, otters, mink and water voles dart in and out of streams and rivers, finding safety in their riverbank hollows.
Sparrow hawks, cormorants, egrets, herons, king fishers, dippers, wag tails, sand martins and moorhens swoop, dive and splash in park lakes and city rivers. But where is the swift? There are rare sightings of this consummate aviator as it searches for nooks and crannies to nest on old houses. This modern architecture, with its smoothed out insulated surfaces, denies them such safe nesting places. Perched up high above roof gutters are house sparrows, roof- nesting gulls and light-bellied Brent geese signalling that it’s time to leave the cold of winter.
All around creatures and plant life of the earth have been living on the edges of human life. Now they are in grave danger. While we have been finding the wild, the extinction of species is rising. Humankind is reaching out for answers to the escalating threat to the planet. Now the birds and creatures of earth, air and water have come to tell the Winter Queen that her gifts of knowledge, healing and peace are needed more than ever.
Finding the Wild Soundtrack composed by Domhnaill Corrigan
The Lost Words and the lost spells
During our research and development project we were drawn to two beautiful books that contained poems about the raven and the fox. Having been inspired by people’s stories about discovering Nature these books and the poems gave us further inspiration to create Finding the Wild.
The Red Fox is by Robert MacFarlane from his book: the lost spells with illustrations by Jackie Morris.
The Raven poems or spells are by Robert MacFarlane from his book the lost words: with illustrations by Jackie Morris.
It is called a ‘Book of Spells’ because it seeks to conjure back the near-lost magic and strangeness of the nature that surrounds us.
Robert MacFarlane explains, ”The book began as a response to the removal of everyday nature words - among them "acorn", "bluebell", "kingfisher" and "wren" - from a widely used children’s dictionary, because those words were not being used enough by children to merit inclusion. The Lost Words then grew to become a much broader protest at the loss of the natural world around us, as well as a celebration of the creatures and plants with which we share our lives, in all their wonderful, characterful glory…..
We’ve got more than 50% of species in decline. And names, good names, well used can help us see and they help us care. We find it hard to love what we cannot give a name to. And what we do not love we will not save.”
the lost words Published Hamish Hamilton – Penguin Random House Pub : 2017
the lost spells Published Hamish Hamilton – Penguin Random House Pub : 2020
Rock rasps. What are you?
I am Raven! Of the blue-black jacket and the
boxer’s swagger, stronger and older than peak
and than boulder, raps Raven in reply.
Air asks, what are you?
I am Raven! Prince of Play, King of Guile,
grin-on-face base-jumper, twice as agile as
the wind, thrice as fast as any gale, rasps
Raven in reply.
Vixen ventures, what are you?
I am Raven! Solver of problems, picker of
locks, who can often outsmart stoat and
always out-think fox, scoffs Raven in reply.
Earth enquires, what are you?
I am Raven! I have followed men from forest
edge to city scarp: black shadow, dark
familiar, hexes Raven in reply.
Nothing knows what you are.
Not true! For I am Raven, who nothing cannot
know. I steal eggs the better to grow, I eat
eyes the better to see, I pluck wings the
better to fly, riddles Raven in reply.