May 1 ICCA event

Tree planting launches Gaelic Nova Scotia Month in Inverness at the Inverness County Centre for the Arts

This coming Monday will mark a few special occasions for Inverness County. Since the 2005 release of Frank Macdonalds A Forest for Calum, a handful of county residents have been seeking out the opportunity to bring an idea to life. The books character Calum envisioned a poem spelled out in trees. The modern Gaelic alphabet originated from an ancient script, and each letter is named for a tree. So, a series of trees, each representing a letter, can spell out a poem or phrase. The Inverness County Centre for the Arts (ICCA) has brought partners together and the project is underway.

Initially, the Inverness Development Association developed the concept and enlisted Morgans Brook Landscaping to do a design. The suggestion that the forest be planted at the Arts Centre brought ICCA into partnership in the project.

On a visit by NSCCs Jamie Ellison to give a talk for the Inverness Garden Club, ICCAs manager Elizabeth Whalley shared the idea with him, and the project has been gaining momentum since. NSCC will be able to provide trees to get started. The project will progress in steps. Caroline Cameron enlisted enthusiastic support from the Port Hawkesbury NSCC Natural Resources Environmental Technology students, who will be coming next fall to do a significant amount of work. She also coordinated with the local school to engage Co-op and Community Based Learning students, who will be doing some initial work to begin, fittingly, on May 1.

May 1 is fitting for this event for a few reasons. It is the beginning of Gaelic Nova Scotia month, during which Nova Scotians celebrate and learn about Gaelic culture. It also Là Bealltainn (Beltane) – one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivalsalong with Samhain, Imbolc and Lughnasadh. It is held about halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, and marks the beginning of summer. Furthermore, May 1 is also Arbour Day, a holiday when people are encouraged to plant and care for trees, no doubt linked to the ancient Beltane and similar customs in other cultures.

In this project the Arts Centre honours the Gaelic storytelling tradition. The art of storytelling – whether spoken, written or sung has been a foundation stone of the culture, as well as other cultures. The phrase, to be revealed at the May 1 event, is not specific to Gaelic culture but encourages reverence for all peoples.

The event will run from 2 pm until 4 pm, and will feature speakers, including Frank Macdonald, a welcome from the Mikmaq community, Frances MacEachen of Nova Scotia Gaelic Affairs, representatives from NSCC, CBU and Inverness School students. There will be lively tunes and, of course, tea. All are welcome to attend this special event. The Centre will be open from 11 am until 5 pm for a last chance for people to take in the Shared Storytelling of Inverness County exhibit on its last day.