The story of Rose Lamartine Yates’ Pinus Austriaca tree in the Batheaston ‘Suffragette Arboretum’ is one of courage, intention, sacrifice and survival against many odds. With care, this 100 year old tree could survive another 400 years and bears enough seeds each year to plant a new forest.
That a single seed well nurtured can transform into a 100 foot tall tree is a reminder of nature’s infinite almost unimaginable capacity for resilience, restoration and new life.
We decided to propagate the seeds and grow ‘radical* sisters’ from Rose’s ‘Mother Tree’ and soon after, recognising their power to inspire awe and courage in us, to gift the tree’s seeds to Earth protectors whom we, in turn, were inspired by. Gifting these symbolic and fertile seeds we could shoot an arrow through time from past to present to future.
We did this first travelling to the Katowice COP24 Climate talks by train in December 2018 to hand as gifts to individual officiants, lawyers, faith leaders, ministers, negotiators and activists we met there: an intimate act of exchange making space for the non-human amidst the dizzying scale of talks hosting 30,000 people from all over the world – albeit in windowless buildings under strip lighting.
Tucking single seeds inside small boxes on miniature beds of wool, with a story folded inside that told the seed’s story and how to plant and germinate it, we sewed each box a beautiful ‘gift’ bag initialled with each giftee’s name. In both scheduled encounters that took weeks of planning and others more opportunistically improvised on the spot, we created a 6 minute ritual to enact with each ‘giftee’. We told the story of Rose and her last standing Suffragette tree and asked people if they’d like a gift of a seed.
When they said yes, we asked them to close their eyes, breathe and be quiet for a while, then to hold their hands out, when we placed the seed box in their hands. After a moment of silence, we asked them to reflect on the intention with which the seed was planted by Rose a Suffragette, imprisoned 100 years ago. How the seed connected back to the campaign for the struggle for Votes for Women, to today, the work our giftees were doing themselves and forward to the future and strongly held intentions to bring about change. We hoped the seed’s tininess and potential gave them courage and fortitude for the work they were doing.
These close human exchanges with strangers were humbling and remain so, for gifting continues. In a few still minutes it’s possible to make space for something rich and encouraging, as though handing back to people their own emotional strength, courage and trust in nature’s potential for restoration and renewal.
Giftees to date include women activists working with trees such as Kenyan Dorothy Naitore from TIST, climate lawyers Farhana Yamin and Achala Abeysinghe; Small Island Nation Minister Dr Kelihiano Kalolo from Tokelau; UN Executive Secretariat Patricia Espinosa; artist activist John Jordan, Gail Bradbrook and others from Extinction Rebellion and Eileen Paddock herself in whose garden the ‘Mother Tree’ grows and thrives. Whether or not these seeds are planted as our own have been, they keep a line of sight on the potential to plant new forests and new dreams that can seed and bring change in the world even if it takes 100 years.
* The ‘radicle’ is the first part of a seedling to emerge during the process of germination.
Krakow, Poland Dec 8th 2018
- Laura Pando Martinez
Head of Programmes and Operations, Julie’s Bicycle.
- Chiara Badiali
Krakow Market Square, Project Manager, Julie’s Bicycle
- Saleemul Huq
Director of International Centre for Climate Change and Development in the Grab and Go coffee shop in Section E of COP24 venue
- Dr Kelihiano Kalolo
Minister for both Economic Development; and Natural Resources and Environment, Tokelau
- Paula Faive
Potted plant, Zone E
- Niyanta Spelman
Rainforest Partnership in the Polish Pavilion in a ‘forest’
- Lindsey Fielder Cook
Representative for Climate Change
Quaker United Nations Office in the lobby near Information Zone
- Dr. Achala C. Abeysingh
Legal and Strategic Advisor, LDC, near Information Zone B
- Isabel Cavelier Adarve
The Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean, AILAC by Information desk Zone B with baby daughter Gabriella from Colombia
- Jennifer Morgan
Executive Director Greenpeace International in Information Lobby, by potted plant, based in Holland
- Michael Northrop
Program Director Sustainable Development, middle of lobby
Katowice, Poland, COP 24, Dec 9th 2018
- Cecylia Malik
in her Sister Rivers exhibition at Dobry Klimat in Market Square
- Rachel Kyte
CEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Sustainable Energy for All
Dec 10th 2018
- Tamsin Omond
Outside the Park Inn Radisson Hotel Katowice
- Farhana Yamin
Farhana Yamin Delegation of the Marshall Islands
Climate Vulnerable Forum Expert Advisory Group by Christmas tree in the lobby of the Park Inn Hotel, Radisson Katowice
- Patricia Espinosa
UNFCCC Executive Secretary COP 24
- Gebru Jember Endalew
given by Farhana Yamin at COP, Chair of Least Developed Countries Group
- Eileen Paddock
retired midwife, Eagle Park, at Dec Vigil
- John Jordan
St James Church Clerkenwell at the Edge 30th celebrations. Feb 4th 9pm
- Jasmine Salter
in XR office Feb 27th 2019 by window
- Gail Bradbrook
in XR office Feb 27th 2019 in sunny corner by window filmed by elder April
- John & Anne Newling
public artist – under a tree in a Nottingham garden, 2 July 2019
- Margaret Ben-Tovim
Women’s Movement and CND Activist, Liverpool
- Dorothy Naitore
TIST Kenya, in Exmouth Celebrating Trees
- Skeena Rathor
XR Stroud, March 10 2020
- Jojo Mehta,
Stop Ecocide, Stroud March 10 2020