Have you ever felt compelled to do something? Felt nudged and pushed? Have you ever had that feeling deep down in your gut that there is something you must do? I have for some time now and finally, that feeling has culminated in a photographic exhibition “Weeds on the Wall”.
For the last number of years my mission has been to tell the world about the wonder of herbs. The plant spirits have been nudging me, urging me, whispering to me to get the message out there and I have tried, offering workshops in herbal medicine and more.
The prompts continued and I began to think more consciously of what else I could do. Talking to friends, about health issues and the state of the health service, I understood that there was something else I could do. I became aware that many people were unable to recognise which plants growing wild in Ireland (and elsewhere) could be used in herbal medicine. I felt that if people knew the plants, they would be empowered to take responsibility for their own health. Once a person uses herbs – that is, any plant that benefits our health – then they become more conscious of their environment. Once a person has a vested interest in their environment, they will take more care of it and be protective of it.
I decided to photograph some of these wild herbs and have an exhibition so that people could see the plants and learn their names and discover how beneficial they are. This decision was made a couple of years ago but unfortunately I could not afford to have an exhibition, the cost of framing made it impossible for me. Then, in January this year, as providence would have it, I found some frames in a shop in Galway – just the type I wanted and VERY affordable. Strange that there were only just enough for my purposes??!!
I have spent the summer photographing wild plants – medicinal herbs – that grow in my garden and in the surrounding meadows, verges and fields. Most of them are instantly recognisable but are nevertheless unknown. By that I mean that the majority of people have lost their connection to them, have forgotten their names and their benefits.
For example, one of the photographs in the exhibition is of a plant from which aspirin is derived. People take aspirin for a number of reasons, to reduce aches and pains, to get rid of headaches, to thin their blood, to reduce inflammation and to reduce fever. Those people are (hopefully) aware that the benefits of aspirin have to be balanced with the side effects – bleeding in the stomach, gastrointestinal ulcerations, heartburn, abdominal pain, cramping, nausea, rash, drowsiness, bloody stools, vomiting……. the list goes on. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that you can get relief for your headaches and fever, aches and pains and inflammation without the side effects and for no financial cost? Wouldn’t you prefer to use a natural, herbal medicine which is safe, tried and tested? The only investment you have to make is to care for the land and observe when the plants are ready to harvest.
As for my plan – to have an exhibition – the frames had materialised and I had taken the photographs but who would come? I am not a photographer and I am unknown. Then….. Beth to the rescue! (www.bethtrepper.com) My friend Beth is a professional photographer of international repute and has a great love for Nature and for plants. She decided to exhibit during the Clifden Arts Week and agreed that I could share her space. How sweet is that?
Our exhibitions have Irish flora in common as Beth is including Irish dried flowers around her mixed-media, fine-art photographs. Her exhibition, entitled “Amid the Green Wood” reveals beautiful maidens and mysterious forests which resonate with our ancestral memories of a magical past time.
Another friend, Patricia Wallace, is a writer and a poet and when she heard what I was doing, she responded by writing an incredible story, “Willow”, that she will read at the opening of the exhibition. It is a story for today, haunting and captivating and will, I believe, inspire people to think differently about the plants that we share our environment with.
All was coming together and then the plants suggested more. How will people remember us after the exhibition they asked? I thought at first that I would put up as much information about each plant as I could, but discovered that there would be more writing on the wall than photograph so I decided to jump in at the deep end and write a book, “The Weed Handbook Volume 1 – The Medicinal and Magical Uses of Connemara “Weeds””.
It is a small book, 60 pages long and it describes each of the thirteen plants in the exhibition. I also include information about where the plants can be found, what ailments they can be used for and the methods of how to use them. Thanks to The Digital Office for the printing.
Mission completed – at least it will be next week. The exhibitions will be open from Friday 14th September until Sunday 23rd and the book will be launched on Monday 17th September at 6.30p.m which is when Patricia will read her story. If you are in Clifden for Arts Week, (www.clifdenartsfestival.ie) please feel very welcome to pop in to see us at The Hair Gallery on Bridge Street. (Thanks Joanna). The book is for sale at 5euros and can also be purchased through this website – go to the Workshops bar in the menu and scroll down to Shop. Looking forward to meeting you.