Alexander Averin

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

The Woodland Experience

Dear Diary,

Before I go on to all things ‘woodlike’ I must tell you that Mr Cassini by Lloyd Jones HAS won the Welsh Book of the Year award. You may remember that it was one of the books our reading group was asked to review and we were invited to speak about it on BBC Radio Wales, as well as on Growth Rings, the poetry book by Christine Evans. I am so thrilled at the result because it was my favourite to win. Surreal, original, intelligent, so well written, humorous, full of myth and magic and so very Welsh. What more could you ask for in a novel? The subject matter struck home with me too.

And now the Woodland Experience

I am killing two birds with one stone. Oh how could I write that? I could definitely not kill a bird! But I am blogging and doing my work for my writers’ group as one and the same piece. What‘s that? Lazy? Me?

At the last meeting of our writers’ group, H, our lovely new member, a talented young poet, chose the subject for us to write about for ‘homework’. She chose ‘forests’. So I really should be writing about forests but to be honest they scare me ever so slightly. They loom too large, with trees too tall and too thickly planted, they seem so dark and eerily silent. They feel ’wilder’ than woods, perhaps that is why they have the ’scary’ element and I also have vague memories of forests being the background of frightening parts of fairy stories. Woods can be wild too though, that I do know. In fact I had a friend who lived near me once in Sussex whose home was called Wildwood Cottage.

I asked H if I could write about ‘woodland’ instead. As if there were ever strict rules in our group. As if I would ever obey them? Ha Ha… Rules are made to be broken, that is one of my mottoes.

After all every forest probably started off life as a copse of trees.

I’d like to be buried in a wood.

When I am dead you understand.

I could even live quite happily in a little house in a wood.

Why do I love woods so?

Well let’s start with the Peace and the Quiet. The Trees of course, they are the stars of the show, the different types, broad-leafed and ancient, they are the best, the most magical. There is much wildlife too within their environs, right from the very small (what they annoyingly call ‘minibeasts’ nowadays in school National Curriculum-speak - don‘t get me started) up to the larger beats, Reynard and Brock. Rabbits, squirrels, owls, and all the birds I Iove them all. The faeries and their rings and the little red and spotted toadstools. I mustn’t forget the Little People, the leprechauns. I’ll be in trouble if I don’t mention them.

And extra special of course is the fact that the woods are home to my much-loved flowers, those heavenly bluebells. Also snowdrops, primroses (more on primroses to come later),celandines, violets, honeysuckle; I had better stop though I could go on and on.

The atmosphere in a wood is like no other. I once had a mystical experience in a wood when we lived in Sussex. It happened about twenty years ago. There were woods and fields all around us, living where we did in the Surrey/Sussex Weald. (The 1987 hurricane sadly destroyed a lot of trees). Our home was a small cottage on the borders of Surrey and West Sussex and opposite us was a small and ancient wood. One sunny, spring Saturday, M, the two children and I went over there for a walk. I remember sitting resting against an oak tree with primroses at my feet, enjoying a bit of time to myself while M and the children, who were aged about seven and four, took off for a little wander. When they were out of sight I remember becoming very dreamy and easily going into quite a meditative state while I was studying the primroses below me. I was just starting out in learning yoga at the time, was well into relaxation and have always found that meditation comes naturally. It is staying focussed in the here and now that I find difficult!

It is difficult to put the experience into words; all I can say is that I became ‘at one’ with the primroses and it was a really fantastic feeling. I was no longer ’me’, everything was just ‘One’. And no I wasn’t ’on’ anything, not even a drop of alcohol had passed my lips! I couldn’t tell you how long the experience lasted as time was suspended and timeless as it is on those very spiritual or significantl moments in life. The spell was only broken by ‘hearing’ the family approaching from the right, returning from their walk. S aged four, dressed in a track suit and a sailor’s hat and V with her flowing blonde locks and wearing a long white dress. Both in their wellies. Quaint and old fashioned they look as I look at them now. For I took a photo of the three of them and keep it by my desk now. Apart from it being a lovely happy family photo it held another (until now) secret memory for me of a very special day. For I didn’t tell anyone of my experience for fear that they would think me mad.

I don’t care a fig what anyone thinks of me now, that is one of the joys of getting older! People can believe me or not, it is entirely up to them.

I hope you fellow writers out there believe me and I hope you will share any similar experiences?

But I will sign off now and put this little piece in for homework. I hope I get decent marks, I’ve told the truth and I’ve done my best…..

Bye for now,



Anonymous said...

What an inspiration to read this first of all the blogs I shall read today. Being at one with nature is so serene for our soul, you sound as though that experience touched you so deeply, you still have such vivid memories of it today. I'm afraid as I'm rather claustrophibic I prefer to be sat in the middle of a field! However, I loved your description of woodland.

Crystal xx

bodran... said...

You ! me! and wood's.
You forgot the moss and that special fine grass thet grows..
And forests are definatly creepy there's not enough space between the trees for there energy to flow freely, and if your sensitive you'll pick up on the feeling of claustrophobia .

Elizabethd said...

What beautiful photos. I agree, there is a difference between woods and forests. We have a nearby forest, and although it has well cut paths for walkers, I find it silent and a bit intimidating.

Fennie said...

Love the music Cait, and it goes so well with the pictures and your tale of mystical experience. I sympathise when you say that it is difficult to stay focused on the here and now. I love woods. Our local wood here is carpeted with bluebells and wild garlic in the spring - quite magical - and yes you can almost see the little people.

Exmoorjane said...

I too am nervous of forests....yet entranced by a copse or little wood....quite a different energy altogether. We have inherited a 'spinney' which is really a teeny tiny baby wood (size of a postage stamp) but even so I love it - a place where I am sure that bluebells and primroses will come.
Don't find it remotely surprising that you, of allpeople, had that experience with the primroses.... I don't think you ever forget those rare moments, so precious. Sadly of course I cannot hear the music.
I love the slants of sunshine with dust motes - a fairy passageway to the world above. And of course a tree is the shaman's entry to the other worlds - up through the branches to the upper world or down through the roots to the world below. Magical, magical.

muddyboots said...

l am a real tree person, since moving north have planted just over 2000 native varieties. was once insulted by a Frenchman who insisted everyone in the parish was odd because we all lived so close to the forest of dean & it had done something to our genes.

HappySnaper said...

Wow, I grew up in Sussex so those woodlands are very close to me. Now live in Scottish Highlands where they are more forests but some are truly magical places, at times remind me of my many teenage visits to North Wales, I do share your thouhts and have recently looked closer to home and started documenting our local forest in pictures. Whilst they are managed for timber production they still have a serene feel at time, thinks I need to share a few snaps soon.

bradan said...

I love woods, Cait, I love the special smell of a wood. But sadly there are no trees here.
I believe you had the experience you wrote about with the primroses and why wouldn't you? 'Tis your Celtic blood a'graidh! xx

Pipany said...

Mmm, there is something mystical about woodlands, Cait. And as for the peace and quiet...don't get me started (from a rather tired and desperate for quiet Pipany!!!!) xx

FunkyMunky said...

So beautifully written. I think you've done your homework well!!

I have fond memories of forests and woods from my childhood (haven't seen so much as two trees together for some time now.)

I used to live in Cumbria and can remember vividly the bluebells and the wonderfully distinctive smell of wild garlic from the nearby woods. Never thought I'd miss Cumbria, but sometimes I really really do!!

By the way (belatedly I know) The Drugs Don't Work is by The Verve. It's a lovely song isn't it.

Pondside said...

All lovely - the music, the pictures and your words. I also love the woods, but I love the forest too. I live at the edge of a forest and am always aware of it pulsing. I love the many shades of green, from nearly yellow, where the sun comes in, to nearly black a short way in. The forest can be dangerous - people are lost here every year but the lucky ones are rescued. No doubt you were and the primrose were one.