#0043: At Home In The Forest
Updated: Jun 2, 2020
Shafts of sunlight cut between pines straight as arrows and thick with moss, like golden blades falling from the heavens.
I'm alone in the forest, picking my way through the towering trees, when I stop.
And I look.
And I listen.
I love it here. There’s so much green. The trunks of the pines, reaching for the sky. The canopy above my head, with its wispy beards of pale jade lichen. The ground beneath my feet, springy, and damp, and smelling of earth. Even the air around me feels as though it's shimmering with tiny emeralds.
The wind moves through the treetops in drawn out, creaking sighs. Nearby, a crow caws as it swoops from the high branches. Further away, a waterfall clatters down the steep hillside, to join the river Ruel, which meanders silently along the glen below.
I follow the roar of water deeper into the woods, where the trees part at the edge of a narrow gorge carved along the forest floor.
Across the water, an ancient, twisted beech reaches out with thick, crooked branches heavy with lichen and moss, like the tentacles of a giant beast of the woods.
Further up the valley, the stream tumbles down the hillside in a series of cascades, shattering the water into a fine spray of diamonds, which catch the breeze and float away through the trees, sparkling in the early Spring light.
Crossing the little wooden bridge over the burn, surrounded by thick forest and glittering air, the water dancing in eddies of swirling silver beneath my feet, I feel as though I’m stepping into the pages of a fairytale.
I should have brought breadcrumbs.
And then, through the pines, picked out by pools of dappled light, I catch my first glimpse of a crooked chimney stack, towering over the forest floor, like the trees packed in closely around it.
I follow a low wall, so dense with moss that it’s indistinguishable from the landscape around it, and I make my way toward the ruined cottage. The years have torn through this place like the winds which howl through the turbines of Cruach Mhor on the hilltops above the forest.
Ferns peep from every crevice in what little remains of the rough stone wall, and hold fast to the very top of the chimney, like a full, verdant crown.
As I step over what was once the threshold, a spider drops from an overhead branch, its fine, silken rope glinting in the sunlight, and starts to build its own home in a corner of this long abandoned room. I sit and watch as the cobweb slowly takes shape before me, and I imagine the people that once called this place home.
I imagine them going about their day. Working outside. Cooking meals for the family. Keeping the house clean and tidy and strong against the elements.
Who were they? When were they here?
I imagine them sleeping soundly, safe from the outside world, embers smouldering in the grate whilst a thin band of silver smoke twists up from the chimney, through the trees, and into a sky full of stars.
I wonder what they dreamt of.
In these strange days of social distancing and self isolation, as we find ourselves trapped indoors more than ever, it makes me think about what home means to me.
It means security. Shelter. Protection against all that the outside world throws at us. Against the monsters scratching at the door.
It means warmth. Comfort. Nourishment. A safe space for you and those you love most.
As you stay at home over the days, weeks, and perhaps months ahead, take a moment out from worrying about what's going on outside, and stop.
And say a little thank you to the walls around you, for everything they represent.