Green spaces in urban environments are sanctuaries. Whatever the season, it’s always a delight to find a park in a city, or a leafy campus. There is something about trees that draws our attention away from the stresses and strains of daily life, an influence that is steadying and calming. They have a quality that soothes the mind.
At Stranmillis University College in the city of Belfast where I teach, we are blessed with a spacious urban parkland campus that sits on a wooded hill. Looking out through picture windows across the River Lagan, we can see County Down on one side, and County Antrim on the other. It is easy to take a place like this for granted in the busy humdrum of working life. But there are times when the beauty of the setting in which we spend our days can catch our breath, slow us down, and help us to recalibrate.
Given the college’s heritage, founded in 1922 for the education of new generations of teachers, there is a strong sense of the promise of young lives in all of the work we do. It is a place of privilege and responsibility. In view of this, it was a great honour for me personally to be asked to write a poem to commemorate the college’s centenary. The poem is published in a lovely new book featuring the photography of my colleagues Greg McCready and Richard Greenwood. Both have a keen eye for detail, and their work captures the exceptional natural beauty of our environment.
The title of my poem, ‘An Sruthán Milis’, anglicized as ‘Stranmillis’, means ‘sweet stream’ in Irish. It refers, we think, to the fresh water of the River Lagan. Our position on the riverbank encourages the growth of plants and grass and trees. Our hope is that the work of the college will encourage the flourishing of people and communities for generations to come, in Belfast and beyond.
An Sruthán Milis
There is Grace in the colour of the leaves,
in clear sunlight on the hill, in the shelter of the trees.
There is Hope in the small seeds planted by the stream,
in each bird and flower that tells the Promise of Spring.
Are we stronger walking these paths together
by the wells of Learning, in tears and in laughter?
There is Wisdom for all who seek, within these hallowed
halls, and Truth to be found in this gift of our years.
Hands that are faithful and hearts that are kind
must carry these Treasures to share along the way.
For challenges are calling and new songs await,
just beyond tomorrow, through the open gate.
Sharon Jones, October 2022
Post script: If you would like to purchase a copy of the book, please get in touch with Katie via firstname.lastname@example.org