.. the black space/
that creates the universe, would…’        poet Deryn Rees-Jones 2008

I’ve often noticed the areas in my forest that are regenerating well; ‘long live the weeds and the wildness yet’* that is so much a part of a healthy forest.

If I look carefully and low down its hard not to miss all the young Ash trees coming up in their thousands that have appeared since we have selectively harvested our monoculture conifer plantation to transform it to a mixed species, permanent, non clearfell (clearcut) forest.

I’ve long been fascinated too, when driving through my small forest at night how my car headlights, or torch when out walking, reveals all the young stems, that will make up part of our biodiverse future and resilient forest

Some notes on the video below: (its a rough sketch so comments welcome)

the black space (resilience)

there is something deathly about the night – its hard too when looking at these young Ash trees not to think of Ash die-back disease these days and the decimating effect it will have for Ireland’s native forests (its Ireland’s most common native tree)… and in general terms, the ‘blackness’ that is engulfing the earth’s living communities due to the exponentially accelerating, globalised, ecocidal violence of industrialised culture

but also how this forest, naturally regenerating and diverse, will have genetic and environmental resiliences… particularly if we tend and thin the trees later (overcrowded trees are more stressed and more likely to be susceptible to disease and pests, ever increasing threats now with climate change)

there is something oddly reassuring about young trees at night too… all that quiet, relentless growing, in the cold, wet dark, amongst the brambles and Alder; supported in turn by the vast networks of decay and recycling by the microbial communities in the dark below

from different angles and lighting, the scale of these Ash trees is hard to determine…it challenges our perceptions of a forest (hence I also let our dog Holly walk through at one stage to interrupt the spatial qualities of the scene)

I end the video with an undefined sound accent that I introduced earlier in the film to associate with the Ash trees. To perhaps suggest that we have much to learn still from the complex resilience of the strange, black space of the Ash night

I took these shots very late at night, lo-lux setting on the camera, mostly ambient sound, late Jan 2013, Hollywood permanent close-to-nature managed (non clearfell) forest, in rural Ireland, thanks to Holly for direction as usual ; edited 4 feb

* G M Hopkins

21 thoughts on “the black space (resilience) of the ash night

  1. Re.Bonsoir,
    Merci pour votre envoi et votre vidéo. La forêt est un milieu évolutif dans le règne supérieur végétal.Nous oublions que le premier règne sur Terre et en préparation des vies animées fut bien les monde végétal étagé et classé par évolution dans les écosystèmes. Il n’y a pas de sauvagerie, ni de choses sales dans le milieu forestier.Ce sont les citadins qui considèrent cette qualification.Votre boisement évolue sur la bonne voie et vous pouvez passer d’un peuplement (je suppose résineux et acidifiant de première implantation) à un second plus adapté de feuillus assez rustique et plein de vivacité.Vous pouvez,si vous êtes en zone à tempêtes,orienter votre boisement en forêt jardinée où tous les ages se côtoient par bouquets,donc en différentes hauteurs des fûts,laissant glisser les vents.Ce genre de futaie est la plus résistante face aux intempéries,sécheresses,attaque d’insectes,etc…


    • translation from google

      Thank you for your submission and your video. The forest is a higher evolution in the reign végétal.Nous forget that the first kingdom on Earth and lives in preparation for moving the plant world was well staged and classified by changes in ecosystems. There is no savagery, no dirty things in the middle forestier.Ce are citizens who believe that changing qualification.Votre afforestation on track and you can spend a stand (I guess softwood and acidifying first implantation) a second more suitable hardwood rather rustic and full of vivacité.Vous can, if you’re in an area with storms, guide your selection forest plantation where all ages come together in clusters, thus different heights drums, leaving drag vents.Ce kind of grove is more resistant to weather, drought, insect attack, etc …

      Bonsoir Nobert!

      thanks so much for your comments. I don’t speak French so you will forgive me for using Google Translate to understand your comment above. Yes, I agree we can’t forget that forests are the most evolved ecosystems. You are right, my forest, all 2.5 acres of it is a conifer plantation of Sitka spruce (its about 25 years old) but I am using Close-to-nature forestry methods since 2008 to transform it into a permanent, mixed species, conifers and hardwoods forest. I am very fortunate to have been on forest study groups with French forester Professor Jean-Philippe Scutz, Slovene Prof. Jurij Diaci and other leading permanent foresters with ProSilvaEurope.org and I am on the committee of ProSilva Ireland. I have learned so much from these foresters and in turn the forests have taught me a lot about deep sustainability in general.


    • Ah, think you just like that paragraph as I referenced the microbial world ;-); though it is the most important ignored element of a forest too even though its the most sophisticated ‘internet’ of the most advanced ecosystem on earth


      • Bonsoir,
        La forêt est la reine des écosystèmes dans l’évolutif sur la planète, mais l’original d’où provient le végétal est le marin.Tous les sols forestiers sont animés dans l’infiniment petit d’une faune perceptible et imperceptible.Elle est la vie avant qu’elle n’explose au grand jour.C’est cette couverture végétale qui a permit le travail des sols récupérés par l’agriculture pour produire. Les espaces forestiers n’ont pas obtenu reconnaissance et notre pauvre arbre ne trouve respect que dans les natures mortes.Le monde artificiel des humains est probablement irrémédiables dans sa marche dégradante de la Nature,de la vie, et de la planète par la rupture de ces chaînes organisées par les équilibres végétaux avec les sols.Ce qui nous apparaît est la résultante du refroidissement de la couche supérieure de la planète,laissant un champ de transformation de la roche par lessivage et accumulations d’éléments minéraux élaborés.Le jeu des ténèbres et de la lumière est nécessaire aux plantes et aux vie annexes.Quoi que nous fassions , la Nature et son évolution contourneront les actions de l’homme ,lequel trouvera une position moins satisfaisante dans le règne de la vie animée.On peut le penser et le craindre.

        The forest is the queen of ecosystems in changing the world, but the origin of the plant is marine. Our forest soils are animated with an infinitely small fauna both perceptible and imperceptible. Her life before us explodes daily. Great is this cover which allowed the tillage recovered by agriculture to produce. Forest areas have not received recognition and our poor forests is this respect dying -natures mortes. The artificial world of humans is probably irreversible in its march towards degrading nature, life and the planet by breaking these chains organized by plant balances with soils. It appears to us as the result of the cooling of the upper layer of the planet, leaving a field of transformation of the rock by leaching and accumulation of mineral elements élaborés. The dance of darkness and light is necessary for plants and life processes. What do we do? nature and evolution will circumvent the actions of man, which found a less satisfactory in the kingdom of life and can think animée. On fear.


  2. I was most struck by the line – “there is something oddly reassuring about young trees at night” – and might suggest you start with that line. I doubt I can add anything so beautiful as the previous comments but I do admire the blend of poetry and prose in your written description. There’s also a moment in the video when your dog walks out of the blackness and into the light that is wonderfully startling and reassuring. The eyes in the blackness evoke the ancient fear of wolves or being watched followed by the lollygagging (not quite bounding) gait of a trusted companion. The wild and domestic in one lovable body much like your like your own little patch of forest which must be managed in order to restore wildness. In the video I almost wished that the early shot where you pull focus on the bramble would be held just a moment longer so we can situate ourselves before the montage of ash branches begins. Minor details though, as this is enthralling. A blend of familiar and unfamiliar that only shooting at night can reveal.


    • Hi Steve

      Thanks so much for your comments and like the line you picked out to start with… I wrote that paragraph as a series of notes about what i was doing literally, then trying to find after what I felt the work was telling me. I often find my film work is far richer than the few ideas I originally start with. However for months I’ve been curious about these young Ash trees at night… I often struck by places in my wee forest and notice something but it takes as long sometimes to understand what the forest is ‘saying’ – still only learning forest-speak 😉

      Its strange you mentioned wolves too, I was just saying something about them to a friend that day – my area in Ireland is the place where the last wolf was shot (around 1786 I think), another victim from the loss of Ireland’s great forests. At one time Ireland with its forests and wolves and woodkearne (forest dwellers) known as ‘Wolfland’ – now in parts it more often resembles Easter Island. So many now have forgotten the former and like Ireland’s current treeless and much poorer landscapes.


  3. Creative play of lines created by the stems with light. It reminds me of a Canadian animation film with lines multiplying in the frame with change of colours. Simplicity is the best tool 🙂 Love nature, Cheers


    • Thanks Arun

      Yes I think simplicity is key. I so remember that in your award winning film for the Copenhagen Climate summit in 2009. How you conveyed so much without a word of dialogue. Glad to hear your film company doing so well in India and that you are teaching now – not surprised at all.


  4. Bonsoir,
    J’ai plaisir à lire vos textes et les commentaires qu’ils succitent. Je suis heureux de voir que le milieu forestier trouve réel intérêt pour ce qu’il est tout d’abord : le laboratoire de la vie après le milieu marin.Si nous savions parler et comprendre la dynamique des écosystèmes terrestres unis et complémentaires,nous serions étonnés de voir la vie complète amplifiée ses éléments favorables et ses forces bénéficiant aux espèces et à l’homme.Au lieu de cela ,nous affaiblissons les végétaux supérieures qui n’arrivent plus à maintenir l’équilibre et régler. les micros climats , les cycles de l’eau et toute la micro biologie nécessaire aux oiseaux,eux-aussi en disparition.Nous pouvons encore redonner vie à tout cela si nous en comprenons l’utilité profonde des équilibres planétaires utiles à l’humain. Bonne réception et merci


    • Hi,

      I enjoy reading your articles and comments that are succinct. I am pleased to see that the forest is real interest in what is first of all: the laboratory of life after the ocean. We speak and understand the dynamics of terrestrial ecosystems and complementary united, amplified positive elements and forces that benefit both nonhuman species and humans. Instead, much actions to our forests no longer maintain balance and resilience. Micro climates, water cycles and all the necessary micro biology and birds, are been disrupted/lost. We can still revive it all if we understand the profound global balances between forest and humans. Good post and thank you

      Thank you Nobertbenjamin,

      Glad you are enjoying the work; I am enjoying learning from my small forest. There is so much to learn from forests about long term deep sustainability, practices and ideas that are transferrable to other situations too.


  5. Cathy, thanks for sharing this on the Woodland Trust Campaigns page! Did I hear rain falling into the forest? – makes the sound of the night feel that much more atmospheric. Best of luck with your work, please do share more with us 🙂 Kaye


    • Thanks Kaye

      Thanks for your comment. I was speaking in Bournemouth Arts University a couple of weeks ago about tending permanent forests and that’s why I contacted you. Didn’t realise I had posted rather an obscure experimental film to your site. This is a link to the recorded talk I gave in Bournemouth, its about the science, ecology and politics I’m interested in my art projects. Its a bit long but it might be of some interest to your followers. The Green Party here has adopted nationally last year that we need to move to permanent, non clearfell forestry and I explain this and how I’m converting my conifer plantation to a mixed species, permanent forest http://ecoartfilm.com/2013/02/21/tending-the-wild-lessons-from-forest-toward-deep-sustainability/


  6. Bonsoir,
    Excusez-moi d’être un bavard du mot.Mais je ne peux éviter de m’exprimer quand il s’agit de mes amis : les arbres.Leurs vies dans la durée sont sont considérables . Un millénaire est parfois,pour certaines essences une grande réalité;Leur monde intime réelle et intérieur nous avons du mal à le reconnaître.Mais,avec sentiments et juste reconnaissance, asseyez-vous au pied d’un de ces arbres âgés.Vous vous sentirez envahir par un sentiment d’une grande douceur,semblable aux bulles d’un bonheur proche .Parfois, cette douceur de la vie, est supérieure à celle que nous connaissons tous ensemble !Est-il un Maître du Monde sans se dévoiler,dans son secret intérieur.De par son règne ,il a préparé le nôtre.il n’en tire pas orgueil et bouleversement,mais il connaît avant nous la vie et les saisons dans le grand Souffle;Il nous dit que si nous l’aimions , il nous donnerait encore plus dans la simplicité du monde.La forêt et l’arbre ne sont pas de bois,mais de la grâce et la beauté d’un univers paradisiaque que nous ne comprenons plus .
    Merci pour vos textes forestiers dans une approche de la pensée sentimentale et artistique .


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