Sage of the Forest : Competition Results (2022)
We would like to thank all those, both young and old, both near and far, that submitted entries to our inaugural Sage of the Forest writing and poetry competition. The standard of entries was outstanding, but after much consideration, our judges have settled upon the top entries in three age categories: adult, seondary and primary. The stories or poems of each winner and runner-up will be narrated by voice actors in the coming months, and recorded to a “story-box” that will be placed within a new story zone at the site of our Forest Sage.
The results of the Sage of the Forest Competition (2022) are as follows:
Stronafian ..... by Andy White - winner of the Adult Category
“Keep up Dad.” shouted Morag.
“You can do it.” added Rhuraidh, without conviction, while Mum wisely kept her counsel.
Spluttering and muttering about this being a holiday and not an Outward Bound course, Dad stumbled after his distant family who were well on their way to the Chambered Cairn.
Reuniting among the trees by the burn, they allowed Dad to gently sink to his knees making an offering of tablet in his supplicant hands.
Mum covered for him with, “Let’s just sit and listen for a while. Take time to see, touch, taste and feel.”
Mum again, “I can picture the families here five thousand years ago. What games did the children play? Did they have music; song; dance? Let’s imagine them.”
“No, let’s BE them” breathed Morag.
Then followed a whirling and a twirling that confounded the nearby sheep, who had never seen such a shindig. Even Dad threw some fancy shapes with a “Be still my dancing feet: put me down you tyrants”.
Another sweet moment of silence was ended by Morag, “Did you know that all living things, plants and animals are probably descended from one single-celled organism? Everything living is related and we humans share half our D.N.A. with trees.”
Predictably, Ruraidh followed with, “And you share 60% with a banana.”………quite true actually.
Mum explained how trees communicate with each other through their roots and foliage: a sort of Wood Wide Web if you wish. Root messages pass through a fungal network in the soil by chemistry; electricity; hormones and even vibration. The trees feed sugar to the fungi in return.
Dad came good here and added that all living organisms have found harmony, the Balance of Nature, over the three and a half billion years of life on Earth. That’s evolution in action of course.
Morag challenged, “And in only two hundred thousand years Mankind has made a right mess of it. Womankind would have done a far better job. IS doing a better job.
Ruraidh became quite Statesmanlike with, “We all have a choice from now on, to get it right.”
Now, fully fired up, they sprang to their feet to journey deeper and higher into the rich forest. As they walked they spoke of Neolithic girls washing their hair with buds of Birch; of families burning Pine needles to freshen the air in their huts and of Rowan woven into cow’s tails for good luck.
Heads high and backs straight they strode on, savouring the salt/pine breeze, and they each forged memories for around the log fire at home.
“Don’t worry about going downhill Dad, we’ll roll you”……………….Who said that, I wonder?
The family’s laughing voices fade. A calm settles on the forest and wildlife begin to emerge to repossess their homeland.
Insects swarm to clear the woodland carpet of organic debris: too many species to name.
Timid shrews dart from cover to cover in search of those insects and the occasional ecstasy of slugs; snails or worms. Shrews help keep the numbers down to sustainable levels.
A kaleidoscope of birds burst suddenly from the foliage. There is safety in numbers so many small birds follow the first, daring, feeder: Blue tits; Great Tits; Chaffinch; Goldfinch all jostle for grain and seeds. Lone Robins too, in search of worms.
A chestnut-brown and cream-throated Pine Marten sleeks silently through the bushes, sniffing for small mammals and, hopefully, Grey Squirrels. They rarely catch a nimble Red.
Above, the Raptors circle: a Kestrel or Sparrow Hawk; possibly an Eagle and occasionally a high and mighty Osprey. While at night the Tawny Owls hoot and hunt; low, swift and silent in pursuit.
Suddenly, all is still. Watching, listening.
The trees turn as one to face…………the Sage of the Forest.
Neither old nor young; both male and female; flora and fauna. A much-loved and timeless enigma who is known to bring peace and wisdom to the forest.
The Sage softly speaks, more like a murmur of wind:
“The humans have gone, tell me what you saw and what was spoken. Did THEY show respect and did WE offer welcome, for we and they are One.”
…….What do you think, Dear Reader, did they?
Seven Sentinels ..... by Chelle - runner-up in the Adult Category
I am the first and I am the last.
We The Seven, Sentinels and witness to paradise.
Arms flung wide skyward as if in silent ululation.
We honoured the elements, bending and swaying to their will, attuned to the wind, the rain, the heat, the cold. Our feet permanently rooted.
No whisper or thought to be civilised.
We saw the Homo sapiens crawl from their swamps, making tentative first steps on the fertile soil.
They raised their voices to the skies and danced around us naked and unashamed.
They praised my six sisters and I like the deities, Mother Earth, Sun God Ra and Little Sister Moon.
Homo sapiens, this new breed.
We thought them civilised.
They learned to forage and to gather.
They tilled the land. They grew plants and trees.
They praised Mother Earth and her bounty and all the wild things that roamed.
So innocent and thankful for this new world they had.
Homage, they still paid to the Seven and the Sun God Ra and Little Sister Moon.
Alas, the first evil, they did discover. The demon they named fire.
The first of my sisters was sacrificed in their need to be civilised.
Forth they came from their damp caves, determined to make a more permanent mark upon the earth.
They needed to build shelter for themselves and for their crops.
Territorial and tribal they became, building divisions upon the land.
Protecting their so called property and discerning it from their neighbours.
In their quest, two more of my sisters sacrificed as they strived to be civilised.
They discovered Mother Earths’ hidden bounty and delved deep into her womb, ripping the mineral and ore from her breast.
War machines and instruments of torture they built.
Cutting swathes of trenches across the land.
They maimed and slaughtered.
Rivers ran red with blood.
The last of my sisters sacrificed, in this urge to be civilised.
I am the first, and I am the last.
This was once a fertile land, paradise.
My arms stretch out in rage to the ash filled skies.
Little Sister Moon, are you still there?
Sun God Ra has been destroyed and Mother Earth lies beneath my feet. Her shuddering death throes reverberate below me.
This empty, holocaustic desolation.
All was sacrificed in Homo sapiens desperate need to be civilised.
Yet even as I begin to wither and crumble falling earthward,
The last thing I see with my scarred tortured eyes … a tiny sapling. A shock of green in the blackened ground.
A hope for the future.
Grow well little Sentinel, grow strong,
No more to be trodden upon by those who thought themselves civilised.
This Year I planted a Tree ..... by Krishti Khandelwal - winner of the Secondary School Category
This year I planted a tree,
I pottered round the forest, and I felt free.
The cute little seedling will grow up,
That thought ran in my head while I was hit with a gentle breeze,
While I looked at the rest of the forest,
With unique flowers all around,
With many petals and seeds with a marvellous colour,
That beautiful, unique masterpiece that grew from the ground.
And I felt happy!
That plant sprouts were cute indeed.
It made me feel so calm,
The leaves, the flowers, and the sprouting seeds.
The air was so fresh,
It was cool enough perfectly,
And I looked at my tree,
As I thought what it would be.
How it can help us,
How long it would last,
How it made me feel better,
How in the future I’ll think about the past.
I’ll look back in my memories,
While I’ll sit beneath that calming tree.
Sage of the Forest ..... by Gemma Black - winner of the Primary School Category
Deep dark days, back in Neothlic times, the brave and wise Sage was in the forest. He was guarding something that was only for his eyes. Velvet cape flapping in the wind and guided by a fading light, the Sage turns around to check for people. Seeing no one he carries on. The wood is silent, there is not a creak nor a crack.
The Sage wanders to the holy well that guards a portal to where fairies sing and dance. A summer’s night, some say is the best night, but in the deep dark forest oh no it’s not. It’s not safe at midnight, for pixies come out from the well… they chant their songs and circle the Sage. In the blink of an eye he has been transformed to stone!
Friends of the Sage searched the forest for him. What a shock it was to find their friend has become a stone statue! They believed it was the curse of the well. So they carved him in wood and buried the well for good.
Legends say that the pixies and evil spirits still gather down in the undergrowth to this day. Now when you pass by, make sure to look the Sage right into his eyes and see his pain! Feel his stiff joints! He hears you, he sees you as you go by. Sometimes you can see a flicker of life in his piercing blue-eyes. Then it’s gone forever, a statue he stands. Even when you’re older and have travelled lands, you will always remember his piercing blue eyes staring back at yours.
The Tale of the Untold Story ..... by Kathryn Morley - runner-up in the Primary School Category
I’m telling a story that I’ve listened to and seen,
One from a place that you’ve likely never been.
First we wind back a couple of years to around winter 1293,
To uncover a story of some untold history.
Back then there was a family, the Campbells they were called
Who were so fond of pride and power, oh they were so enthralled.
One day they had a disagreement about who had more power,
And soon it became a family feud in around an hour.
Each morning the snow fell and I heard the church clock strike nine,
Shouting followed by the Campbells, it was just a matter of time,
Before killing and hurting and harassing and more,
As if for the Campbells it was a chore.
I looked down on the glen, smiling at its enchanting winter landscape,
Then frowning on the Campbells, right now they were a disgrace and were not at all in shape.
I thought to my wise old self, the glen was a fine place,
No bad reputation we would face.
I must sort out this problem I thought in my head,
I don’t want anyone hurt or anyone dead.
I must have jinxed it because before you know,
I saw somebody dead in the heavy snow.
“This wasn’t right, it must stop now!”
I was angry and cross but how could I stop it, oh how?
I thought for a while and a little bit more,
Before I had my plan of action, it was ready to soar.
I called the Campbells up one by one,
Telling me what happened turn by turn.
At last when I got the gist of the tale,
And heard all the little tiny details.
I fixed all the problems with some wise advice,
And then Glendaruel was a place which was lovely and nice.
And from that day on no more arguments or fights,
Would take place in Glendaruel, days or nights.
So now I stand at the top of my hill, looking over the grass, trees, flowers and hay bales,
And telling people my entrancing, magical tales.