Wednesday, 23 November 2016

In the forest, I know who I am

It's the silence.

It's the sound of my own footsteps on the old logging road that leads partway into the forest. They sound so .. human. But in a good way. As though, knowing that the sound of my footsteps is heard only by the trees - who welcome me - being human means something else, something other than what it usually means, and with each step deeper into the forest I walk deeper into that meaning.

At first I do like Adam. I name everything I see. I catch myself and try to drop the words but the trying only makes them stickier. I chuckle. Was that Adam's first mistake? Or is it something we humans are supposed to do?

The chuckle sweeps the words away and the smells begin to reach into me. I couldn't name them if I tried. I can describe them, though, and the brain is at it again. It describes the fragrances with colours. Browns and greens and yellows and mmmm, is that red? The smell of fallen red.

The old logging road ends here and the ground is too soft to register my footsteps, or at least to my human ears they've all but disappeared. Of course the vibration of them spreads out through the soft deep mossy leaf-carpeted soil and (I assume) everything knows I am here.

I've taken a perch on a long fallen tree, it's smooth as marble. A squirrel's just appeared, right beside me - I could almost reach out and touch him - and he's looking rather surprised. Not alarmed at all, but curious. I say hello, gently, and he looks even more surprised but still not alarmed. I get the impression that I am his first human, that he has heard of humans but never seen one before. He looks me right in the eye. I wonder what sort of nut that is he's carrying, is that a butternut? I ask him, "what sort of nut is that?". He regards me a little longer but he doesn't answer. A moment later he swirls around, like an eddy in a stream, flows back along the fallen tree, up over its upended root system, disappears. A moment later I see him again, flowing through the forest.

I am at the edge of somewhere now, a place of the sort legends are full of. In this roughly circular grouping of trees the silence deepens. It's a place of great, deep stillness, a stillness deep enough to suck all words, all desire for words, right out of me. I have stood in the centre of it before but today I only stand at the edge, my breath catching, my heart on the edge of weeping, not with grief, not joy, some sort of relief, perhaps. I don't go in this time, for it hasn't called me in. There is no sense that I must not enter, there just isn't - this time - the sense that I must, so I go on.

The land rolls and I follow it down. On some walks we follow our eyes, on this one I follow my nose. I smell everything, up close, even the bark of trees, and oh, who knew that the bark of each tree would smell so unique? Then the flutter of wings, very close. A chickadee lands on a branch just above me and we look at each other, eye to eye. Off it goes, and I see there are three of them. They're doing chickadee things, ignoring me, but they stay close. As I go on, they go on with me. Whenever I stop - oh look, chaga! and another and another! - one of the birds flutters around my head, so close I feel the breeze from his powerful little wings.

I'm drawn up a steep embankment. At the top lies another ancient fallen tree, split in two and hollowed out, like two canoes floating side by side. The autumn skeletons of plants pierce through them, on the top of the wiry stems a few blue berries. Not blueberries, blue berries. The breeze of little wings again, close.

The weather is changing. The sunlight has turned liquid-y and from high up the ravens tell me my husband is waiting. I'll never be the same - thanks be to God - I leave this place different than I went in, more human now.

Under the smells of browns and yellows and fallen red I catch a whiff of emerald that pulls me to my knees. I sweep the other colours aside with my fingers, a hundred, no, more than a hundred green hearts appear and offer their spicy roots. I take only one handful.


  1. Oh, lovely! I was there with you, feeling, smelling, hearing, breathing it all in! Enchanting.

  2. I've noticed I get less of that communion when I'm riding on trails. It's there, but I'm gone too fast to absorb much. When I stop is when the place speaks to me. Still, the riding is so essential for my existence, so I wait for places that speak loudly before I stop.