Roxane Andersen: Professor of Peatland Science


The special blanket


In the north of Scotland, ten thousand years ago,

The glaciers retreated, scouring the land mass below.

Soon after, plants spirits woke, yawned, and stretched,

 Gazing at the landscape the ice age had etched.


A young birch tree spirit - who was the tallest

Suddenly jumped with panic and unrest:

“Oh no, oh dear!” he cried “sound the alarm!”

And pointed in the distance, with his thin woody arm.


“Calm down!” said a shrub spirit “what’s the problem?”

“The dragons!” cried the birch “can you not see them?”

So, they all looked around and they saw with horror

Dragons, everywhere… in a very deep slumber.


“I know what to do” a small voice whispered quietly.

It came from a bog moss, small, crimson red and dainty:

“We’ll knit a blanket…” she began - but they laughed and said “fool!”

“A special blanket” she said more firmly “that keeps dragons cool”.


“It’ll need to be big, for all the dragons to fit”

“So let’s start!” she went on and taught them how to knit.

And thus, all the plants spirits sat down and knitted,

They knitted and knitted and knitted and knitted.


For thousands of years, they knitted tirelessly,

And the blanket grew, from the mountains to the sea.

The blanket grew wide, and the blanket grew deep

It rose up and fell down as dragons breathed in their sleep.

Until one day, humans arrived in Scotland

To build homes, to hunt food and set claims on the land.

They poked the blanket, making holes here and there,

And the plant spirits sensed a change in the air.


They gathered a council to review the situation

And discussed and agreed on a course of action.

“See how the rips are mostly on the edge”

Argued a golden and slender-looking sedge,


“They won’t wake the dragons, I am pretty sure”

“They are tiny cuts, the blanket is secure.”

“That’s right” said the shrub “and can we not mend it?”

“I suggest that we all just continue to knit”


So the plant spirits knitted and knitted some more,

But while they knitted, they couldn’t ignore

That for reasons they just couldn’t get

Humans continued to ruin their special blanket.


The holes kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger

“Look” the birch screamed “this human brought a digger!”

And the plant spirits all looked on with despair

As the dozers and diggers cut out drains everywhere


Then humans brought flocks of very hungry sheep

Who grazed near the gashes, so long and so deep.

They planted foreign trees around large ditches

And stretched and broke down the blanket’s tight stitches


“ Enough!” the bog moss shouted “something must be done”

“Or before we know it, the blanket will be gone!”

“But who can we tell, will those humans listen?”

“Maybe not them…” mused the sedge, “but maybe their children?”


And so the plant spirits overcame their fears

To whisper like the wind in the children’s small ears

“Look closely at this blanket, isn’t it sublime?”

“We have all knitted it for such a long time…”


“See all the life that depends on this blanket”

“The rivers that it feeds, the birds that live on it…”

“Look at all these colours, how they change in the light?”

And the children saw it all with a new-found delight


They tried to describe this beauty to others

And managed to protect some of the blanket’s corners

But the damage was profound, the blanket was shrinking

And the dragons, deep down, soon started stirring.


“I’m worried” the birch tree said to all the plant spirits,

“The blanket is so broken, it’s fallen into bits”

“The dragon’s breaths have become erratic”

“If they wake up, it will be… dramatic!”


“We must tell the truth…” the wise bog moss spoke

“Or the world that we know may well go up in smoke!”

“We must warn the children of the real dragons’ threat”

“We must teach them to knit, and to mend the blanket”


It was their last chance – the plant spirits knew it well

So they summoned their powers in a magical spell


As the children slept, they started to have visions,

Of the broken blanket bursting out with dragons,


In that way, the dreams truly began to reveal

Just why the blanket was a really big deal

The dragons were scary, but there was hope too

As the dreams also showed the children what to do


The children spoke to everyone and told them the story

They warned of dragons and of the plant spirits worry

That if the special blanket was not looked after fast

Then even the human were not guaranteed to last.


Now, humans block drains, cut trees and patch up cracks

And the plant spirits are able to follow in their tracks

They join forces and work as one team

Stitching back the blanket with a yarn made of dream.


And what of the dragons, you may be wondering

Under the blanket, it looks like they are snoring

And I hope they will continue to snore

For another ten thousand years, or perhaps even more…


By Prof. Roxane Andersen

UHI Professor of Peatland Sciences

Environmental Research Institute, UHI North Highland