As you may know, I am an advocate of taking breaks as much as we can during the working day to focus the mind on our environment and our senses for few minutes. I have written about the benefits of looking at the sky, the sea, nature, anything around you, breathing and focusing on lights, smells, feelings, colours, just for a moment – what I call a Moment of Art - even brief.
However, sometimes, there is no sea, no sky to look at. Below is the photo of the view from my desk at my full-time job. Have you ever seen a more depressing view…?
At least over the Summer, I could enjoy looking at the sky, the clouds and focus on their gradients of colours. But now winter is upon us: there is not really a sky… just a grey-white cover, no shadow, no gradient. I came to the realization that I am currently missing my skies, and my Moments of Art are not so mindful: I feel less their effects and more the Winter Blues. I do like blue, but not that kind of blue…
I tried to find other things to focus on and relax my mind. I looked at a tree I could look at: even if there are no leaves, there is always some contrast in the wood and the joy of seeing some nature. But no tree. Then, I turned my mind to my cup of tea and the reflections of the lights on it, to my desktop wallpaper, which is one of my seascape painting, then I googled “trees” and looked at photos of trees and read articles about plants, trees and their effects on our moods.
I read this study (1) which shows that people who spent 15 minutes gazing at a winter city forest (straight trunks, no leaves) reported significantly better moods, more positive emotions, vitality, better restorative feelings afterwards than those who gazed at the urban scene. Unfortunately, I do not have the opportunity at work to take time for a walk nearby.
If Nature is not outside my window, I will bring nature to my desk! As I have no green finger, I went for the plant that requires the least taking care of. Look at this beauty! Let's hope I don't kill it...
Another study (2) shows that you can reduce stress by simply looking at images of nature. “Keeping a few snapshots of greenery around your work desk might not be a bad idea. When participants viewed the natural images in the experiment, their stress levels lowered, thanks to the activation of their parasympathetic nervous system- which controls certain rest functions.”
There you go, I changed my desktop wallpaper to a greener scene (my painting "The Best Things are Unseen").
Just to experience more Green and less Blue for a while, especially with the Green Friday coming up this week.
But while I was doing my research on trees and forests, some information caught my eye: Ireland has the lowest forest cover of all European countries: approximately 11% compared to the European average of well over 30% (source: Teagasc).
I thought to myself: Ireland is known as the Emerald Island, for sure that can not be. But all the internet confirmed that number, and I discovered that there used to be 80% of forest in Ireland. How simply shocking! What happened to the forests? I got curious of the reasons why and what to do to improve the situation.
There were extensive forests in Ireland before 1600. But, by 1800, these forests were largely gone. There were two major woodland types: Oak Woods in the lowlands and valleys, and the Pine Forests on poorer soils. There were several contributory factors to their disappearances: industrialisation, ship building, iron, glass and barrel production, pasture for livestock and tillage for crops, population increase, etc.
When the forests were gone, many native woodland mammals, such as wild boar, wolf and red squirrel (until he was reintroduced) disappeared too.(3)
There has been reforestation in the 19th century for fuel and timber, and more recently to serve politicians’ agenda on climate change. Unfortunately, those trees are not often (but not always) native trees, but fast-growing trees unsuitable for the land, because big numbers need to be shown to Parliament and to the public and deadlines need to be met. When fast-growing trees are planted at the wrong place and not managed properly, the negative effect on the local biodiversity, soil and climate change is huge.
Trees need to be planted, yes, but native trees and it should be a slow process to make sure the flora and fauna is not disturbed and can adapt at a natural speed and new ones to be reintroduced slowly. At a Natural speed.
As the Green Friday is approaching, and as this initiative encourages native tree-planting too, I decided to look at the different organizations in place and chose Mossy Earth to partner with.
Until the 8th of December, for each order on my website, I will plant a native tree on your name to build native woodland in County Clare, Ireland, on abandoned agricultural lands (Project Foraois). I will not physically plant it (I told you, I have no green fingers), but Mossy Earth will, and I will send you the photo and localisation of your tree.
CLICK HERE to know more about this offer and Mossy Earth's mission to plant the right native tree at the right place with the right management system.
(3) Irish Forests - A Brief History (agriculture.gov.ie)