To The Woods

This weekend I made it to the woods at last!

Visiting a small wooded valley in the midst of the wild garlic and bluebell season is a traditional May Day weekend trip I try to make each year with my partner, our two friends and their dogs. This year there were three of us plus two dogs.

Due to ongoing isolation and shit health, I haven’t been to these particular woods since early autumn last year, I don’t know about you, but something inside me wilts and dies if I’m not surrounded by trees semi-regularly.

In fact, being lucky enough for a few years of my childhood, living backed on to a wild space of trees, wildlife and running water, surrounded by hills and moors and sky, sometimes it feels like I’m living on a leash by living in a city at all. I feel that I’ve domesticated a part of my self that had lived free for a short while.

….If I wasn’t disabled and needed the short distance to resources that cities provide, would I live in a city? .. probably not!

But, back to the woods.

This year we found the accessible car park which made the outing much more do-able. Dismissing the downpour as a ‘passing shower’ we got out of my friends car and immediately the bird song became everything. The rain made the green, the soil and the tree smell like something I could reach out and touch.

Outdoors I generally like to walk quietly, I like to be able to hear the things around me; the kids playing in the park, domestic sounds from back gardens, insects, birds singing, the rain on the roads. But most especially in nature, I like to leave my footfalls at the gate. I like to become part of the now, part of the space that is really just life going on.

It comes from finding out that if I leave my human sounds behind, and if I’m walking into the wind, leaving my human smells; animals and birds can get really, really fucking close. Having once quietly stepped into a clearing and come within a metre of a bunch of deer (antlers and all) drinking from a forest puddle, and had those mutual of wide-eyed  moments, I’d gladly leave my footsteps behind every time!

Down the steep path, reddish-clay and sand. Tall trees here, taller because the slopes are so steep. A step-ladder of fungi framing the length of a dead birch trunk. Rain shading in the footpath, leaving outlines like chalk lines preserving evidence.

And then into the bed of the valley, low hanging clouds of garlic blooms and bluebells spread out from the small, sandy stream running into the future. I have boots on and, whilst we have dogs with us and a quiet walk is out of the question, I decide to walk downstream in the water. I climb over and under fallen trees, bridging the divide. I let my face be wet-brushed through the curtains of over-hanging new green leaves.

I’m not sure how much energy I have for getting out of the valley and back to the car, so I try to be as present as I can in each moment, not rushing forward as I’d like to, not climbing or running. Its such a treat to be there, to be with friends, to have been driven like it’s a trip and not a charity, and I want to enjoy every rain soaked minute.

On the walk back, we run into an old friend and it feels like the perfect place to have met and to have been together, like that secret place you keep in your heart for insurance against hard times ahead.

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