Lúcháir is Irish for 'delight', related to the Scottish Gaelic luachair - the soft rush juncus effusus, (literally, 'glory, splendour'), and the Welsh llwych, ('lightmaker, a spark'). The pith of this plant was soaked in tallow and used to make rushlights and so by association the word 'lúcháir' came also to mean 'the gleam of light on water' - a flash of beauty, a moment of enlightenment, and in Celtic tradition, a glimpse of the other-world.

The Lúcháir Project started out with the intention of becoming a collaborative and multi-disciplinary two-year stretch which would raise awareness not only of the dangers we face in living beyond our ecological means, but of the possibility of a greatly enriched and enhanced life if we could connect, and cherish the earth and our neighbour, and come together to create something new and wonderful.

It didn't work out quite like that. I found that an awful lot of people were already active in this field. The Permaculture and Transition movements seemed to have got a lot of the social and practical issues covered, and, as I got more involved with it, the geo-poetics movement showed itself to be way ahead of me in terms of mapping out research areas and stimulating art projects. Also, I found that I can't create and collaborate at the same time. My creativity needs solitude as much as community, and when my head is buzzing with all the exciting stuff I find in the world or on the internet, I don't focus so well on my own work. Nevertheless, Lúcháir remains an important concept for me, as a guideline for my creative and ethical practice.It's the heart of everything I do.


Lúcháir draws from
  • the insights of geo-poetics, in which I found a way of grounding art in an informed and intelligent awareness of the earth (see My Take on GeoPoetics for more information and links to the site of the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics).

  • the environmental initiatives of the permaculture movement, whose principles which you can see here have a lot in common with the social teaching of the church in which I was brought up, especially in the emphasis on diversity, inclusivity and subsidiarity.

  • the spiritual practices of monastic traditions - particularly that of the Rule of St Benedict. Living simply is more than an economic choice, and many of the world's religious thinkers got there before us. I have studied my own monastic tradition deeply, but I have also learned a lot from friends of many faiths and observances – Wiccan, Quaker, Buddhist, Socialist and many others. I hope people from other traditions will free to use anything here they find useful, without feeling pressured to buy into an institutional package.


Walking the Territory

My first aim is to connect with the world around me - the history and geography, the ecology and community. Nothing wise compassionate or effective can be done without a deep understanding of what is here already.

Where I live now is a river valley. The Forth flows through it, still tidal at this point, meandering crazily at the foot of the Ochils. It's milder here than places even a short distance away, because it's low-lying and sheltered, and sometimes we have mists and sometimes floods. It's very close to the city centre, but, as it is isolated by the river, it is secluded, and there are skies dark enough to see stars. One day we will be on an island in the middle of an ox-bow lake, but for now we are a semi-detached suburb, playing at being farming country. It's good land, over devonian sandstone, a mixture of silt and clay – there were orchards here for centuries – and it's a good place for wild-life, with a variety of habitats, woodland, hill, field, river and bog.

There is also my own smaller territory, the garden, which is about 1800 square feet, level, south-facing. It is bounded by a tall privet hedge on the west side, a lower hazel one on the south, and suburban larch fencing on the east. There are currently two trees, a rowan and a birch, lawn, borders and a pond. It has been gardened organically since we came, and is productive, but also over-run with ground elder, buttercups and bindweed.

Then, you can't connect meaningfully with the earth, with the wild unless you can connect with the human community. I feel very strongly the importance of connecting with the past, my own family heritage in Ireland, but also with the history and traditions of where I live now, with the miners and artists and monks who used to live here and with the farmers, university students, the shop-workers and people who run B&Bs who live here now. The village used to play an important part in the history of Scotland, and it has buildings and memories to cherish.

Living Where We Live

My second aim is to cherish what is around me, which means more than to 'conserve' or 'appreciate'. The permaculture principles of care for the earth, care for the people and fair shares are important, encouraging work for peace, biodiversity, respect fro traditional cultures and communities justice and equality.

Heart Mind and Spirit

The more I go on the more it becomes obvious that redressing the ecological balance of our lives is not only a practical scientific or an economic task, but it is also social, psychological and most importantly, spiritual.

It also becomes clear that though it is wise to learn from and be enriched by the teachings of many faiths and traditions, in the end you have to deepen your practice in one. My own practice is Catholic and from time to time there will be posts on the blog specifically aimed at the Catholic community, dealing with the social teaching of the Church and integrating my own research.

The Gleam of Light on Water
The final aim is to encourage creativity, the moment when the connection and the relationship produces something new and wonderful. Human behaviour may be the cause of many of our problems, but human skill, wisdom and creativity may well be our best resource in solving them. So by creativity, I don't mean just formal art, but any holistic and earth-friendly exercise of skill that enhances life on this planet.

My own practice is poetry and this is where the weight of Lúcháir mostly falls. You can find more about my writing on the Wherever We Live Now page or at www.burnedthumb.co.uk.

I also want to develop other skills, such as cooking, gardening, languages and music. But most of all I would like to collaborate with other artists, to participate and support their work, and help to develop the skills and practice of those who might have found themselves excluded from opportunities to be creative in their own right.

Connect Cherish Create