I've recently spent a few days camping near Fordingbridge in the New Forest. It was very much a family holiday and so I didn't get much time to myself to explore places and ideas at a deeper level. I like to be comfortable in a place so that I can explore it at my leisure and see in what way it might speak to me. There was an area of woodland near the campsite which I was able to explore - mainly it seemed late in the evening once "Piglet" had gone to bed and we had cleared up the tent and had coffee. Then I had a bit of 'me' time.
Going out into woodland in the encroaching dark is an interesting experience in examining what fears we have of dark unknown shapes and things that suddenly dash off in the undergrowth. Our minds are so programmed with scary thoughts, but in reality there is little or nothing, naturally speaking, that can harm us on a night's walk.
The woods were generally very quiet - just the soft swish of bats, the rustle of leaves in a breeze and the occasional hoot of an owl. Once, where I could walk out to meet the river that flowed silently through the still meadows, again all was quiet. But in the darkness I heard a gentle splashing sound and though the dim light of the lowering moon three swans swam down to river to where I was sitting and then cautiously turned up a small stream and into the tall vegetation and willows of the river bank.
With a couple of nights of clear skies I was able to lie down and gaze up at the stars above me. I don't 'do' stars so I have no idea where I was looking - apart from straight up! I am sure an occasional meteor streaked above me and are those satellites - the ever so tiny fast moving pinpricks of light that are almost imperceptible?
So there I am gazing up into what we think of as the infinite expanse of space. For once I don't feel frightened at the thought of all that up there. I feel that I am on a gift, a gift given to us that gives us food, shelter and somewhere to exist. It is our protective sphere of earth that enables us to be part of this huge evolutionary experience. Is it a Divine gift? You could look at it that way. There may be other alternatives that are proposed but to me, in this place, the word "Gift" was true to me. A gift is treasured, valued and given thanks for. The giver is respected. We are receivers. How could I think otherwise when I was surrounded by lush meadows, deep woodland and hedgerows bursting with berries.
I didn't want to go to bed. I wanted to stay up, enjoy the darkness, listen to the breeze and just sit by candlelight.
Experiencing the Woods
Sometimes I am intrigued at how silent and un-wildlifey woods can feel. Occasionally I would do an exercise of thinking "what would a Druid do or feel?". How would they view or feel about a particular place or event. It is a bit like the "What Would Jesus Do?" sort of thing. To my mind I find it easier to think about the former as I can identify with that more easily - and I'm not here going to explain or justify my thoughts or how I wouldn't necessarily differentiate between the two, and anyway I use the term 'Druid' loosely to mean "a deep nature lover of great wisdom" and as it only has five letters it is quicker to write than "a deep nature lover of great wisdom"!
So in the wood, at night, how do I feel? What can I hear? What can I smell? What can I sense? Well, only the obvious things really - nothing too enlightening, but then you can't always force things just when you want to experience something new. As I have said above, you need to tune into a place.
And not just in the wood. What about when things are stressful in the family or when work isn't going too well? How would "a deep nature lover of great wisdom" deal with things? Theory is easier than practice.
The nights are closing in. It is 8.30pm, dark and pouring with rain outside the summerhouse. I can hear it beating on the roof and dripping off the sides. I like being here in the rain as it masks out the sounds on the traffic and neighbours and I feel quite cosy and isolated here. I could do with more light though but I do like my candle.