Saturday, April 05, 2008

Our Need of Woods

In the woods nearby, the bluebells are starting to come out.

In another couple of weeks, I shall be able to walk into the depths of the wood, see a sight like the one above (that picture was taken last year) and breathe in the gentle fragrance of what must surely be at least a million flowers. It is a treat I look forward to every April.

I read the other day that at least eighty percent of people in the British Isles do not live within walking distance of a wood. That felt to me like a sad and very disturbing statistic. Disturbing not just because it reminds us that the destruction of native woodland – which in these islands began with the Romans and continues to this day – is a factor in climate change, but because we really need woods. We need them in all sorts of ways, not only for the carbon they sequester.

To stand alone in the middle of a wood is to be outnumbered. To be one solitary human organism, less than ankle-high to any one of several thousand other living organisms around you is to be, just for a little while, back in the right importance ratio of human to planet. It cannot but make you feel humble. And we all need to feel humble and outnumbered, often.

It was not by accident that Dante chose to begin his journey of mid-life self-discovery at the time and place that he did:

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi retrovai per una selva oscura,
che la diritta via era smarrita.

("In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself in a dark wood,
for the straight way was lost").

Mid-life is like that – or can be, if we allow ourselves to let go of the heroic phase, the ‘outward arc’ of our existence and start along the ‘inward arc’, the deeper journey of exploration that, as Jung, explained, is the true task of our later lives.

I like to imagine, too, that as a species we are coming close to that same point in the evolutionary cycle. Lost in the woods, with no ‘diritta via’ in sight, we are challenged to look within, to examine ourselves, our lifestyles, our priorities and to face the murky shadows of our exploitative, hubristic history. We are challenged to learn, to grow in consciousness, to find a new way out of the wood and into the clear light of a simple, peaceful, co-operative and sustainable way of living in harmony with the rest of creation.

If we don’t succeed in this, then eventually some April day will come that my woods are bare of bluebells and no human eye will ever see a glorious sight like this one, ever again.


KerrdeLune said...

Oh Endment, thank you for sharing this! There is still so much snow here that it will be several weeks before any grasses and wildflowers appear. I needed to see them, and this is the perfect place to do so.

janeywan said...

This is so true and most disturbing for me. I am in the final pages of reading "The Story of B" and his message is the same. I'm glad that I have lived during a time while these sights and smells are still here for us to enjoy. I fear, in my heart and soul, that the process of the destruction we humans have cause is irreversible. So sad indeed.

Wish you would post more frequently.

joared said...

Lovely bluebells and photos. I certainly agree about the pleasures and joys present for the taking. As a young person I came to appreciate nature in unique ways -- just sitting by myself, leaned up against a tree in a woods. The wildlife became accustomed to my presence and went about their daily lives fascinating me. Time for much contemplative thought at any age.

Anne said...

Lovely post! A visit to the woods is indeed life-sustaining. I like your comment about how it puts us in the right perspective with the rest of creation. And I agree heartily with the idea that we are at a critical turning point, wonderful metaphor. For our children's sakes and for the sake of all creation, may we choose the right path!

Cheryl said...

How I love this post, and your writings are so right.
I to am fortunate to live near bluebell woods, they are so precious and so rare now.
There is nothing that tells of England like this does.
They are an absolute gem.

Camille Cain said...

Marian, thank you so much for the bluebells story.
My husband Robin and I used to own a cottage In Lorne, Australia. Our place overlooked Loutit Bay which is part of the world famous Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Every Spring the freesias would pop up everywhere - just wild and rambling and oh, what perfume! One early evening I lay among them looking up at the moon - I knew I would never forget that experience. Sadly, Lorne is very popular and development is stomping out these little freesias. Such huge mounds are piled over them to make way for ridiculously large buildings.
How precious your wood is. My husband and I hope to retire to a bushland place - something we can manage - we desperately need the fresh air and balm to our spirits - I think I will plant freesias.....

Elderwoman said...

Thank you, Cate, Janeywan, Joared, Anne, Cheryl, Camille for all those lovely comments. And Camille, thanks for reminding me about the freesias. I had forgotten about the way freesias have naturalized in so many places in Victoria - I remember especially how thick they were all around Zumsteins in the Grampians. Those, at least, won't have been trampled by the developers - at least I sincerely hope not. And I hope you find your special place and fill it with sweet-scented flowers.

Sue Swift said...

I am so pleased I've found your blog. you are sayings everything I feel. I'll be back.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Lovely post, we went for a lovely long walk in the woods yesterday and yes it does feel like something we need to do for so many reasons. 80% of people is a lot to not have woodlands they can walk to.

I've enjoyed browsing your blog, you say a lot of interestig nand wise things!

Dagny McKinley said...

Your words are like a poem. I felt like I was standing in the woods with you. It has been too many months since I have been humbled by the solitude of one woman alone in nature.

Thank you for sharing your experience.

Dagny McKinley
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earth heart said...

Such a lovely blog you have.

I also like to imagine we are evolving into a more conscious world. This is my continued hope.

Oh yes, bluebells. In the wooded area behind our home, they are just now in bloom. I look forward to their appearance each Spring and a walk through the carpet of blue.