Post by Category : Trees

Advent Calendar – 22nd December – Death of a Horse Tree

Mid Winter, solstice, long dark nights, solitude, a time for reflection of the year gone by. Trees bare of leaves, their skeletons showing, shaped by the wind and time. Branches crashing to the ground in the arctic winds. Some trees will fall by the wayside.

To me the interest in a crucifixion image is not the religious portrayal of horrific torture and a reminder of how foul people can be to each other and the planet, but more the portrayal of the horizontal and the vertical and how the body is shaped by these forces.

This aligns with Alexander Technique thinking which teaches us to open our thinking in these directions. By developing our awareness of spatial planes our muscle spirals are allowed to unravel into length width with ease and our consciousness to be free. Things feel lighter.

The three days of the solstice are time to pay homage to the essential support deep within and ease out of the year by taking time to rest.

Death of a Horse Tree, Oil on Canvas, 100 x 150 cm

Painting inspired by Salvador Dali’s luminescent crucifixion painting in the Kelvingrove, Glasgow.)

The Snow Queen – Bee Your Own Magic

Winter solstice, the shortest day of the year – a time when the sun appears stationary for three days, inviting us too to stop, slow down, chill out, let go….

In the darkest times it can be hard to believe that light will return. Yet life freezes to get on with its own magical transformation. I love the thought of the Queen Bee overwintering under her horse tree gathering energy to bring life to all in spring. She is a reminder to us to take time over winter to constructively rest too.

For inspiration as to the most effective way to do this, check out this Body Magic link here because taking the time to lie in semi-supine, is good for the spine and helps you feel fine!

Constructive rest, aka semi-supine, is a way to care for our whole self and thus the best Xmas gift we could possibly give ourselves. By stopping we have time to dwell in our golden hearted loving natures and bee our own magic, letting go of all that constant doing and busy-ness to experience the gift of just being life itself. Alive without all the stories we tell ourselves or are being told.

Solstice – an invitation to bee the snow queen for three days!

Much love


Body Magic download link

Advent Calendar – 20th December – I Only Have Ice Fir Yule

Today’s offering is a daft drawing which made me smile. Got to keep your sense of humour, no matter what! Humour is wisdom and makes everything look better, methinks.

I enjoyed making sure every snowflake was different. Worth remembering we people are all snowflakes too and there are always going to be differences – all the more reason for humour. Well, that was my thought drawing snowflakes, at least.

Advent Calendar – 17th December – The Language of Wolves

Wolves howl to display togetherness. Howls are among many vocal sounds canines make as any dog owner will know. My dog howls when the 1pm Thursday siren sounds at Carstairs State Hospital or if she hears bagpipes! Crazy Maisie!

The Romans and Saxons reported Britain to be abundant with wolves. Wolves are now extinct here due to deforestation and active hunting through the bounty system. The last wolf recorded was killed in the 14th century in Kent.

We know deforestation destroys species and yet world-wide we continue to chop down pristine forest wildernesses. When will it stop? How can we get it to stop? Someone told me the other day they hate trees because they make a mess! Such ignorance makes me want howl in despair!

My only solution is to aim to find ways to keep planting trees and hopefully encourage others to do so too and somehow educate the tree haters! If a drawing or a bit of writing resonates and this advent blog sees someone somewhere deciding to plant a tree or motivates a group to come together to create a community orchard or woodland, it will have been a good idea. Personally this advent calendar is further pointing me to in the direction of art for trees. Somehow….

Sorry to be a bit mournful today, I’ll aim to draw something cheery and festive for tomorrow.

Advent Calendar – 16th December – Ding Dong!

‘The clearest way to the Universe is through a forest wilderness” John Muir

This cartoon of Ding Dong Merrily on High is inspired by the sparrows in my garden. The more trees we have, the more birds.

Though I am definitely not a musician I had to get the notes in the right place! Funny how the word ‘high’ is the lowest note!

‘Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky” Kalib Gibran

Advent Calendar – 15th December – Baby Forests

Some paintings, like trees, take a long time to grow. ‘Cows at the Horse Trees’ is a learning curve painting and probably not done but has given me an idea…

Baby forests! Baby forests are like the woodlands planted to commemorate a persons life but even more positive! Let’s plant trees to celebrate new beginnings. Trees planted for each years crop of babies!

Baby forests could be a thing across the country, places to visit and see tree growth to help children understand and feel connected with the natural world and empowered by having a place in it, and of course have fun too. Forest schools with outdoor classrooms, as well as places of celebration for family tree planting ceremonies to welcome the new born child!

Average life expectancy in UK, trees and people –

Apple – 80 years

Oak – 350 years

Beech 180 – 200 years

Silver Birch – 150 years

Rowan – 120 years

Scots Pine – 300 years

Humans – 81 years

Cows at the Horse Trees, Oil on Canvas, 40 x 50 cm

Advent Calendar – 14th December – Tree Lovers

For years I blamed a persistent cough on fumes from painting in oils. This summer a friend alerted me to the dangers of mouth breathing. He was resorting to taping his mouth at night to stop his habit. My cough is all but gone as I remind myself to shut my mouth as I walk and gawp at trees!

We need incoming air to be filtered by the nose for our good health just as we need trees to filter air for the well-being of the planet.

Are you a mouth breather?

Breath by James Nestor. Lots fo videos on the internet and a book.

Advent Calendar – 13th December – We Tree Kings

Although a tad ‘bah-humbug’ re the extent of commercial Xmas trees chopped, as opposed to a sea-change in thinking towards planting hardwoods for Christmas, I do love the smell of pine and will cut a branch to bring in.

Pine is an amazing natural healer full of Vitamin C as well as antibacterial. If you have a cut Xmas tree here are three gifts from your tree…

  • When the needles drop, boil in water then strain to spray on counter tops and floors for a natural, lovely smelling anti-bacterial spray.
  • Pine needles make a good tea or tincture and are full of vitamin C. For tincture leave in vodka for a few weeks and add a few drops to water when you need a boost.
  • For a pine needle foot bath, steep the needles, then bathe feet for 20 minutes in the warm water. The anti-bacterial properties will help clear any fungal infection in the feet as well as being soothing self care over the holiday period.

Advent Calendar – 12th December – The Happiness of Drinking Tea with a Friend

A few years ago a friend gave me some cut willow branches. Easy peasy trees to grow, literally cut branches and stick into the ground in spring. Now I have trees growing drinking up some of the wet areas of ground here. But more than that…

  • Willow bark tea is known as nature’s aspirin. Peel bark from fresh branches and boil for ten minutes, then steep for thirty minutes before drinking.
  • Cut branches in a vase make a beautiful winter display and will soon start to root to plant in spring. A reminder in winter of the promise of life held in a twig – a vase of magical willow wands! (Change the water once a week.)
  • Horses love to eat willow, a natural painkiller willow helps to reduce swelling and inflammation.

If any local friends would like some willow branches now or in the spring, please let me know, I’d be delighted to cut some for you.

The Happiness of Drinking Tea with Friend, Acrylic on Canvas, 60 x 60 cm. Inspired by willow pattern and an appreciation of the simple things in life. Available at The Tolbooth, Lanark Christmas Exhibition.

Advent Calendar – 9th December – The Clearing

Christmas is hard for lots of people when perhaps it could be about being light?

In the Christmas story three kings follow a star looking for a new born child. In my mind the three kings represent aspects of our psyche – love, creativity and hope are my choices. The star is light, inspiration, guidance and the child symbolises transformation and rebirth…

A horse rests by a stream. The flowing water clears away fear, stagnation, negativity… The horse is bathed in light. Wise father time is represented by the horse trees yet there is a chaos and confusion around him too, rooted in the past and habits of old.

The horse simply observes – by slowing down to let go he rejuvenates his inner light for the coming year.

Why cut down trees and cover them in artificial lights to experience the illumination they represent?

The Clearing – Pencil and watercolour of paper. Copyright

Advent Calendar – 8th December – ‘When You Change the Way You Look at Things…’

‘When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change!’ Dr Wayne Dyer

A horse contemplates a dandelion clock. A weed or treasure from mother earth? Underground horse spirits guard treasure, rich nutrients stored in the soil.

A true story – Two fields, side by side. Different owners. One with not a weed in sight, sprayed yearly with chemical weed killers. A good farmer? The other, more a meadow now, not sprayed in years, filled with a rich variety of wild flowers and grasses, alive with insects and feeding birds. Full of weeds?

It takes a mental leap to change the way we look at things, but when we do, the things we look at change!

Advent Calendar – 7th December – The Merlin Tree

Merlin, the sovereign’s magician, not so much one person but a wisdom tradition, a lineage from the heart of the ancient forests of Britain.

Merlin is an important mythical figure, a myth being an idea in which man tries to make sense of the world. He embraces many archetypes – shaman, healer, mystic, animal communicator, alchemist, wise man, hermit, sage, shape-shifter, environmentalist, teacher, green man…

Merlin, the myths tell us, was exiled to the Caledonian Forests, a period of ‘madness’ roaming the vast wild woods of Scotland, where he is enlightened and connects with his magical powers.

It’s fascinating how spending time with trees and wilderness are a process of initiation and enlightenment in so many traditions world-wide.

This drawing is inspired by Merlindale, near Drumelzier here is Scotland where it is said Merlin died.

Previous blog here.

Returned to The Merlin Tree today adding layers of wash to the pencil on canvas. Work in progress. 80 x 100 cm

Advent Calendar – December 6th – It’s in the DNA!

‘A tree excels at being a tree and no-one really knows how it does it. There is no way of imitating a tree, the only thing is to be one.’ Alan Watts

Spiralling DNA, the Tree of Life, branches as horse trees… A rider sits quietly contemplating spirals. Listening to space. Breath flows from the tree to the girl and her horse and back to the tree.

‘Everything that lives and moves and breathes, lives and moves and breathes in spirals.’ Don Burton, Alexander Technique Teacher

Advent Calendar- 4th December – The Woodpecker

Prior to this Advent project I wrote a list of pros and cons re doing it. My lists were equal which led to this insight…In maths (not my favourite subject at school but I do remember this) a positive and a negative make a negative. Dah! Light bulb moment: do the Advent idea otherwise negativity will prevail!

How often do we do nothing because we don’t know if we can manage to do something, if it will be successful or where it will lead to? Perhaps creativity is this balance of positive and negative?

The Woodpecker – a dying horse tree – feast or famine? Life or death?

Advent Calendar – 5th December – Clyde Dryad

The Dryads of Greek mythology are tree guardians. Hamadryads, nymph spirits of oak and poplar trees, are connected with river-side trees and sacred groves. When a tree dies a Dryad dies.

By planting native trees we plant spirit back into the land. Cash crop mono-forestry plantations have little or no spirit and do not guardian the land – more a destructive army of regular uniformity… (I should have called this project art-vent rather than advent!)

Though Dryads are usually depicted as beautiful young woman, Clyde Dryad is an ancient, gnarled crone viewing the world with her beady eye … ‘It’s not too late! We are not all gone!’ she creaks to the tiny money spider.

Inspired by the oaks on the River Clyde Walkway.

Clyde Dryad, Mixed Media, 12 x 12 inches

Advent Calendar – 3rd December – This Too Shall Pass!

This too shall pass, such a useful thought in hard and stressful times! A thought that asks us to change our attitude in the moment and be hopeful, knowing that life is short and everything changes. Change is the only certainty.

Crows flock around the Horse Trees. Crows, intelligent, creative and adaptable, a crow feather worn as a head dress was used to amplify psychic abilities.

The Horse Trees are inspired by Scots Pines. Scots Pine is a native of the once extensive Caledonian Forest, the ancient temperate rainforest of Scotland of which only tiny fragments remain, and is the only native timber-producing pine in Scotland. The Scots Pine is known as a pioneer species, due to its ability to regenerate and thrive in poor soils and has a lifespan of 300 years supporting 172 insect species. A wondrous tree.

I wonder why then, do we see endless non-native pine plantations here in Scotland when it’s so easy to grow a useful native pine that also supports wildlife?

The horse finds shelter and comfort from the bitter wind. His gaze is turned towards the trees implying here is an answer – find creative solutions to problems. Don’t pass nature by! Everything we need is already here.

‘This too shall pass’ – attributed to Medieval Persian Sufi poets.

Advent Calendar – 2nd December – The Return

I started this drawing months ago but it wasn’t speaking. Today the crows arrived at the Unicorn Tree. Crows are intelligent, adaptable and symbolic of transformation. They also have a somewhat sinister presence. The crows brought the drawing to life and with them came an idea…

My dad told me that the beech trees we see lining many of the roads of Britain were planted after World War 1 to commemorate the dead. So many of these century old trees are now dying.

Why? Ditches not maintained so their roots stand in water or salting the roads damaging tree roots? I don’t know. Many fell during Storm Arwen this week.

Perhaps, following the death of so many during Covid, Britain could follow the inspiration of post World War 1 tree planting with a mass tree planting along our road ways again, so that one day someone else’s dad will tell them the story of why they were planted!

Advent Calendar – 11th December – The Embrace

Children hug trees. One girl stands beside a horse. ‘It is time to take action! We are ready!’ she says ‘ Show us the way!’ A prayer of sorts.

Fencing off areas within our horses fields to plant stands of trees is a gift to the future – trees to embrace and nurture the children and animals long after we are dead!

I am always moved to tears when I see people protesting about trees being cut down.

Advent Calendar – 1st December – Creating The Christmas Forest

Traditionally advent was marked with a chalk line on the wall ticking off the days until Christmas. I am marking advent with art, probably drawings, for 24 days as, I hope, a way to bring in ‘the light’ of ideas and inspiration.

There is something about setting an intention and showing up that lets ideas start to flow. I love that Advent and Adventure are the same word from Latin ‘advenire’ arrive and ‘adventurous’ about to happen.

This is something I would love to see happen… Christmas Forests!

Watching thousands upon thousands of soil acidifying cut Christmas trees being transported up Lanark High Street (and this only a tiny fraction of cut Christmas trees this year in the UK alone) an idea came to mind that I hope this drawing captures.

I have drawn a sock hanging outside on a washing line. One for each member of a family. In each sock is a bare root hardwood or fruit tree ready for planting in The Christmas Forest which, in my imagination, are a future concepts across the country. A place where people meet up at Christmas to plant trees and celebrate life. Giving a tree for Christmas as the best pressie ever!

Perhaps a few enlightened farmers who grow cash crop Xmas trees will see a Christmas Forest as a way of giving back – creating amazing woodlands for future generations by tithing a percentage of their land for Christmas Forests? They could sell the bare root stock to be planted on their land or vouchers or some such so it would be a win-win? It just takes a little willingness and imagination. I am sure Christmas Forests could become a thing!



Crucifixion – After Dali

This painting is very loosely based on ‘Christ of Saint John of the Cross’ by Salvador Dali housed at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow. It obviously looks nothing like Dali’s luminescent masterpiece, but I looked at the work as a starting point for the feel I somehow wanted to attempt to convey.


My painting represents the tree of life dying. The boughs of the tree are horses. It is about my desire to do something useful for the planet. And the most useful thing I can think of to do as a self employed artist is to plant trees.

The painting came about because a friend asked me if I had ever painted a crucifixion. I hadn’t, but decided to.

I have had it hanging in my bedroom since I completed it a few months ago. I find it comforting, benign and protective and yet a call to arms, to action at the same time.

A tree or a crucifixion?

Original art and prints for sale.

Crucifixion, Horse Tree by Kirsten Harris, 100 x 150 cm, Acrylic and Copper on Canvas


First Garden by Kirsten Harris, Acrylic on Board

We all know that trees are the lungs of the planet, but did you know that it’s unhealthy to mouth breathe? Notice if you do it! Mouth breathing can cause of a lot of problems.

There is a fascinating new book on the subject called Breath by James Nestor which I thank my talented potter friend Richard Price for pointing me at.

I thought my long term cough was caused by the effects of years of oil painting but it seems that I had developed a habit of mouth breathing. The cough is miraculously disappearing with my awareness of this ‘dangerous’ habit.


Todays job – Order fencing material to fence off a swathe of land to plant trees and trust someone will miraculously show up to help me create the fence! Will keep you informed. I am on a tree planting mission!

Prints and Artwork available at

To Earth We Return

To Earth We Return by Kirsten Harris

Why do humans find it so hard to accept that none of us are getting out of here alive? Me included! Life is short!

My dad told me that all the avenues of beech trees in Britain were planted after the first world war to commemorate the dead. A row of these ancient trees border my garden. For years I have photographed the trees around the farm behind me on my daily winter walk. Many of them are dying now. These trees, both beech and Scots pine, plus living with horses have inspired many of my drawings.

Before I die I plan to plant a lot more trees. I thank the horses for that desire. I have art to make to do it! – prints and original art