if trees could speak ... photographs by Alan Watson Featherstone
In December 2000 I graduated from the School of Storytelling in Sussex and decided to go back home to Iran. Last time I was there was July 1984. Wanting a slow return, I travelled on land from Turkey. On the last stretch of my journey through Turkey I took a taxi from Dogubayazit towards Maku. Then just before the border the taxi driver stopped and pointed to a square grey cement building. 'There, you walk' he said. I walked with a rucksack on my shoulders and a heart throbbing with stories.
I was interrogated at the border. Then the border agencies confiscated my passport and told me 'now you enter the country.' I knew this meant trouble, so I said 'I won't enter the country without my passport.' After a few minutes of talking among themselves, the border agencies handed my passport back to me and said 'welcome to Iran.' I had a foreboding feeling of entering a troubled land.
In the weeks following I witnessed how deeply troubled my country had become. Stories abound on this front. I witnessed the widespread addiction to narcotics across all classes, the social decay and corruption, a strangling fear and a choking lack of freedom dominating the social sphere. Echos of death and destruction reverberated in nature, in polluted rivers, degraded soil, dying forests, disappearing wildlife. My heart ached and my head spun in disbelief.
And yet here on this land where I was born and where I learned my first words and walked my first steps, is where I felt my deepest roots and connections with the earth. This is the land I love and the people I feel a kinship with. How could I live with the immense despair I felt all around me? On my flight out of Iran I sank down on the seat and the grief of the land and people washed through me in unstoppable sobs and tears.
The question of how to live with the despair haunted me for many months on my return to England where I lived. Then one day, through a conversation a clear note of hope emerged on the horizon of my mind. Plant trees. Plant trees for the land, with the people. Plant trees to heal the wounds of the land, to welcome wildlife back, to express your love for life, and hope for a greener future. And so an intention firmed up in my heart. It is well to have an idea and an intention. The real test is how to carry it through in action.
In April 2002 I joined a world-class conference on Restoring the Earth in Findhorn, a spiritual community in northern Scotland. There I met an army of earth-stewards, so many people committed to healing the earth, to changing themselves and their life-style to harmonise with the needs of the planet. There also I met Alan Watson Featherstone, one of the organisers of the conference. As well as being a renowned nature photographer, Alan is the founder of Trees for Life, an award winning charity dedicated to restore the Caledonian Forest. To date, Trees for Life has planted over a million trees with the help of volunteers and staff in the Scottish Highlands. As one of my colleagues from Iran was denied visa to attend the conference, I asked Alan if he would visit Iran with me. He agreed to accompany me, to visit the forests, and to help me find a clue as where and how to start tree-planting with people.
Alan duly travelled with me to the forests in Iran in April 2005. This was a remarkable journey of connection with the forests and those responsible for the trees and wildlife in Iran. Alan's photographs on the right column witness the beauty and diversity of forest life in northern Iran.
Unfortunately I did not take any further steps for tree-planting until I returned to Findhorn in 2013, and re-met Alan, this time as my life partner. For the first time since our journey to Iran in 2005 I am able to make his photographs visible to the world and to plan the next steps towards tree-planting.
For this purpose I am calling for a gathering of Earth-Healers in the city of Tatvan in Eastern Turkey from 4-10 September 2016, to increase our connectivity and to show our love for the world in action.
Please open the next page on this website to learn more about the gathering.