Island Blog – A Sylvan Lift

Woods. I recommend them. Among trees, my daily ‘among’ thing feeds my soul, lifts my feet, my heart. When I walked, careless and young, my hand inside my dad’s big warm palm, there were trees but I had no idea of their sentience. I knew they kept me from rain beneath their wide leafy branches. I knew they shaded me from the intense sun-punch. I knew I could climb through their limbs. I knew they lined our suburban street. Beyond that? Clueless.

Oh my, how I have learned over time, so much, so very much. Even the street trees, those ones pushing through the confines of concrete paving slabs in shopping centres, even they have a voice and a story and more, something wonderful and something healing to share. However, my daily walk is into wild woods, no people, only the trees, the deer tracks, the otter spraint, the lift of a a snipe, although I only heard a flutter from the bracken as I walked and the flash of a lifting bird.

I turn to where the track lifts kindly gentle past horse chestnuts and up to the beeches. I say hallo my friends, as I always do. They are quiet for now as a big hooha of a hail storm has passed on through and the sky ahead is promisingly blue-ish with only a few flattened clouds, stunned I decide from the slam of sudden hail arriving on the back of a cold wind. I may just make the whole walk before the next one arrives, which it always does. On I go past the politely fallen pine, 20 paces long I count. One big limb hangs over the road just high enough above it not to poke me in the eye, fingers canting down all bare and dead. Witches fingers. I call a greeting to Finneas and Magnus the only huge pines in the fairy woods who have given me their names. I round the corner and into the straight. This part of the sylvan scape is flanked solid with hazels and birches, the chorus line. Hallo ladies, I smile at them, feeling the usual urge to burst into song, and stop to study another fallen giant, this time a beech and this one still living despite the man-high curve of yanked out roots. Its fall is held in the arms of what looks like an Eucalyptus judging by its bark. The beech fell, arms wide and this beautiful saviour caught it slap bang in the belly. Although the beech, a huge one, did make contact with the ground, the saviour may well have kept it breathing still. Eventually, I am guessing, this holding up thing will exhaust the saviour and I suppose even saviours have a life span.

Where the track curves back on itself there is another beech of whom I am particularly fond, the one who grew straight out from a rock face, turned straight for the light and who now is almost taller than the others that surround it. Brave woman, I say, as I always do. You think me of me, of many women, of all the courage and sheer determination that ensures life goes on, no matter the difficulties. As I head back for home I greet Lord and Lady Larch, Archie Larch and his girlfriend the Alder. She’s shy I think as she is always quiet when I go by. Their limbs are so intertwined that I find it hard to work out who owns which. But, no matter. They are happy together and that’s all that counts. I see the lichen, green, white, orange, the different mosses on the drystone walls, the fallen wood and in the stands of rainwater. So much colour and life.

A warbler warbles at me as I come down the last stretch. I stop to find it, but I never do. Tits chatter in the sycamores, skittering like children when school is out. One flies overhead and there is a little something in its beak, something like a feather. Nesting has begun already. As I open my door and feel the rush of inside warmth, I am smiling, refreshed, rejuvenated and ready for a cup of tea. As I sip it and reflect, I can sense a change in me, a calming peace, a sylvan lift.

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