I was delighted to tell Mary the other day what I’d learned, to wit, that the Gaelic word saoirse “means freedom . . . the freedom to be and to express yourself,” according to Diana Beresford-Kroeger, whose “To Speak for the Trees” I’m reading.
The botanist-medical biochemist says, moreover, that saoirse “means freedom of the spirit and the imagination,” and that “saoirse and amsir — time — are, I believe, the two most valuable things a person can possess.” We agreed that Saoirse was the most wonderful name, topping even Phoebe and Chloe in our lexicon.
Time, which Beresford-Kroeger has not wasted, became all the more precious for her owing to the fact that early in life she was orphaned. Though, luckily, rather than incarceration in an orphanage, she was brought up in the Celtic traditions by a community of elders in Lisheens who loved her and, as she flourished in their care, taught her every bit of the folk wisdom they knew, wisdom that when she later put it to scientific tests proved to be absolutely true.
Early on she felt an intense connection with nature and everything in it, with trees especially — though there was hardly a one in Lisheens, the English having cut them all down — and was impelled in her time here to know everything she could about natural life. Since trees give us life, breathing out so that we can breathe in, and nurture estuaries, it would be suicidal, nay homicidal, she says, to cut them all down. Faced with the grievous challenge of climate change, she would have every person — there being about eight billion of us on the planet now — plant a native species tree each year for six years. We should get started.
It is she, whose life work has been devoted to life and to the continuance of it, who should be listened to, not the autocrats, who rob people of their freedom of spirit and imagination and who don’t see beyond their noses. Will brains or brawn win out in the end? That is the question.
Today, a friend gave me a copy of Newsday’s March 13, 1959, edition, which had in it an account of East Hampton’s win over Mattituck in town basketball, but that paper also had in it a story about the need for beefed-up military preparedness so we’d be able to fight a war in which tactical nuclear weapons were used. And, lo, more than 60 years later, we’re still thinking the unthinkable.
This spring, especially this spring, be imaginative, express your spirit. Plant a tree.