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Eckerö Trees

A Day with an Ash Tree

As part of my attempts at recording my encounters with a small ash tree growing near the former Post Quay in Eckerö I have used several of my old strategies or methods. They are all documented on one page in the Research Catalogue, in the order I made them, here.

In the Ash Tree

One such method or technique is creating a rough time-lapse video for a day by repeating the same action and the same framing of the image every hour or every other hour, like I did this time. I decided to sit and write next to the ash from sunrise to sunset on Thursday 22 July 2021, which meant starting at 5 am and ending at 11 pm, after sunset, actually. I wrote in Swedish, by hand in a small notebook, thus spending quite some time transcribing the text, and then recording it. I tried to do it next to the house, by the wall, protected from the wind, but was not happy with the sound and decided to return to the same place on the shore, and sat there, in the afternoon on the 24 July at 2 pm, reading all the sessions in one go.

After editing the video into a long version with the sessions in full, a brief version with 50 to 60 seconds of each session (with some extra time in the beginning and at the end) the next job was to add the recorded text as a voice-over and adjust the length of the video clips accordlingly. And then, the problem with the language returned – obviously English subtitles were needed. Translating the texts into English took some time, and when that was done I added them as text scrolls on each clip. Unfortunately, I had read my notes so quickly that the scroll is hard to follow at times, especially in some of the morning sessions where there is too much light and the text is difficult to discern. The texts, the orignal Swedish as well as my partly clumsy English translation are available on the same page, here. In include here below the translation of the text from the first and the last session, to give an idea:

Day with an Ash 5 am

Eckerö Post Quay 22.7.2021 5 am in the morning, or 4.59 to be exact. Time to begin the day with you, dear ash tree, at sunrise. I shall sit with you every other hour and follow how the light changes, how the wind shifts or not, how people come and go. And how you are doing standing where you do. I have posed with you for the camera several times and thought I would now try out this diary form to see if I could learn something new of you, from you, with you in this way. I hope you do not mind and remain as benevolent and generous as before. Behind you I can see the horizon is already turning orange, although the sun is behind the trees. The wind blows from southwest, from the sea, the day begins with waves lapping and silence. A good morning for you as well, I suppose. Thus, simply: Good morning!

Day with an Ash 11 pm

It is eleven pm, almost half an hour past sunset, although the sky and the sea still shine with a pale violet shimmer. The Eckerö ferry from Grisslehamn has arrived, although now most of the cars have already driven past, peace returns. A strange bird sounds behind me, and there are still two cars on the quay, all else is calm. – I looked at the recorded material and was surprised of the small abrupt displacements of the images in the afternoon – obviously I have been careless while placing the camera. Otherwise, the material looked fine. The proportions between the tree, or you, and the human, or me, are quite acceptable. I look very small on the rock next to you, although you are rather small for a tree. How things look in the image and how they appear in reality are two very different things. The same goes for the experience of coming to sit next to you every other hour for a day and trying to write to you, with you – that is something else than what can be seen in the image, and also the effect, feeling and mood created by the images and by the video formed of them. If I will add this text that I am writing, if I for instance read it and record it and attach it as a voice-over to the video, it will change everything again. Time will tell. Now I simply want to say goodbye at least for tonight and thank you for our collaboration during the day. I don’t know if you experienced it as a collaboration or anything at all. For me, however, it has been important to sit here next to you. And I think I will remember this day for a long time –regardless whether I find something worth pondering in these notes. Thus, simply: Thank you. And Good Night!

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Eckerö Trees

Goodbye to the Pine on Hundudden

Returning to the Pine on Hundudden for a last visit 19.7.2021.

Due to the pandemic and travel restrictions as well as the previously alarming covid-situation in Stockholm (lately the so-called incidence has been no worse or even better than in Helsinki) I have not visited my second home there since January 2020. At that time, before my ARA (Arts Research Africa) residency in Johannesburg, I kick-started this project – “Meetings with Remarkable and Unremarkable Trees” – by initiating a pen pal relationship with a small pine tree on Hundudden in Stockholm. The first three weekly sessions and letters (in Swedish) are recorded on the RC, here: https://www.researchcatalogue.net/view/761326/771644

Writing to the pine next to the pine…

And now, a few days ago, a fourth one was finally added to them. The letter I wrote as farewell – in Swedish, too – is inserted on the same page with the previous letters, here https://www.researchcatalogue.net/view/761326/771644/52/1388

When travelling to Stockholm via Grisslehamn, from Eckerö, where I am enjoying a residency in the historical Post and Customs House during the month of July, I was not sure whether I should carry my camera with me. My main reason for visiting was fetching some hard drives and books, trying to rescue what was left of my many houseplants and cleaning the small flat after one and a half years of neglect. After the trip I realise that taking leave of the pine on Hundudden and closing that ill-fated part of the project, was actually most important, and made it possible for me to think of returning to Stockholm with new plans and ideas. It was also great to see that the pine was fine, unlike the poor birch next to it, which had completely dried out and probably died in the drought.

By saying farewell to the small pine on Hundudden I am by no means abandoning pines in general, on the contrary. I am slowly developing a project with the working title “Talar med tallar” or Talking with Pines. One option for a motto could be a quote from Anna Tsing: “If you ever wanted to be impressed by the historical force of plants, you might do well to start with pines.” (Tsing 2015, 169).

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Eckerö Trees

Living in a Monument

My first encounter with the apple tree in front of the building

For the month of July I have the superb privilege of staying in the newly renovated residency in the historical building of Eckerö Post and Customs House on Eckerö Island. Living in this historical environment is a paradoxical mixture of peace and quite, bordering on isolation, and a tourist attraction occupied by a constant flow of visitors during part of the day, located within or next to a summer paradise, nevertheless feeling serene and even austere despite the luxurious facilities. I am still overwhelmed by this experience, arriving only a few days ago, and immediately choosing two trees on the premises to perform with. On the one hand I chose one of the two maple trees in the yard, the one on the right being the more inviting, perhaps because being further away from the cafeteria, and with plenty of space next to the tree. And on the other hand I chose the apple tree in front of the building, hidden behind a hedge of lilacs and small enough to be included in the image almost in full. I really wanted to show at least parts of the building in the background, too.

My first encounter with the maple tree in the yard.

After two easy mornings, or rather days, because I have made the images around noon, a surprise awaited me on Sunday evening; the white bench to the right of the maple tree had been relocated to the left of the tree, exactly where I used to stand, hm. I realized there was still enough space for me between the bench and the tree and decided to enjoy the surprise rather than to be annoyed or try to move the bench back. When I opened the door and stepped out with my camera today a new surprise awaited me; an elderly couple – well, my age probably, – was sitting on the bench. I decided to begin with the apple tree and hope that they would move away by themselves, but no, they did not. So, instead of waiting a few hours I bluntly went up to them, placed my camera tripod in front of them and asked if they would mind being in the image or alternatively leave the bench for a moment. They chose to move to another bench, and I completed the image, standing, not exactly in the same spot as before, but close enough.

My third encounter with the maple tree in the yard.

During these three days I have noticed that my balancing skills have clearly deteriorated for lack of practice, or then my shoes are too soft, not supporting my ankles, or then the spots on the ground are somehow uneven. Be that as it may, I have difficulties in standing on my toes for the duration of twenty one breaths, even if I lower my heels almost to the ground. Hopefully my balancing skills will improve through practice over the coming month…