A cold greeting out the door but when one has commited to walking, one must walk. So up the road, with many Sunday cars filled with shoppers, picnickers and car-windowed dogs enjoying the rushing breeze passed me as I made the phone-less brisk trek up to the Epping Forest South East border. I was briefly tempted by a sign to the left that said “daily home made food” but endeavoured to be true to my course.
The night’s showers had rendered the forest floor dark and muddy, a mix of bicycle tracks and fallen leaves. I tried to make out the shapes, but these British trees are friends I have yet to introduce myself to. I’d heard stories of curious trekkers getting lost in the forest, so i was cautious at picking a trail. One gloomy tree-hung path beckoned me but i turned back after only 20meters, as I could tell I could have easily lost my way. The Sun was out, unusually, so I followed one of the paths to the left, with a tiny lake (?) water encatchment and enjoyed the rays hitting my forehead. I stared into the sun for a full 10 seconds, realising at 8 seconds I only let my left eye receive the full blast. Oh well.
This path continued on, and I felt a familiarity wash over me. The smell, the stillness i had observed by default of that 10 seconds made every leaf rustle loud.
The bike tracks made it easy to carve out a path for myself, marking distinct trees or fallen over branches as a breadcrumb trail to lead me back. I stopped momentarily to let my face receive more rays peeking through a grouping of holly trees, grown tall with all the space. On the leaves, spider’s weavings entwined, creating a kind of lace-veil over the foliage.
To my right, a clearing. I ventured to inspect and found a large tree, a doorway almost, into the circular clearing, with a man-made triangular teepee formation to my right. I felt that here one would have been received by a gathering, so I sang a hello, the melody and words just wafting out of me like the vapour of my breath this chilly morning. Lines and melody of “Misty” continued to exit my vocal cords and I could feel the forest respond. A gentle breeze high above caught the tops of trees and their branches shivered a greeting, in waves, as the winds blew. I felt safe, loved. Here I am, I said aloud in my mind, I’m here, and I’m so grateful.
After inspecting the surrounds, and wondering how old everything was, scanning ahead, my eyes caught sight of a large tree up ahead. Making sure I could follow my way back I quickly made my way there…
One giant lightning-struck tree stood sentinel with a clear 4 meter radius of respect observed by the others. Large branches lay fallen, and I recognised the patterns of lightning-cleaving on the sides of each collection of damp fallen logs, fanned out star-like so as to say, “Be careful,” or “Stay clear”. I stood for a moment, sussing out if I was permitted to go further.
More details entered my mind; 400 years old, poplar (?), the bark smooth and mossed-over, jagged in some places, and around the shadowy “back” untouched by lightning, it’s original skin; bumpy and crumpled, breathing. I stepped closer and, inches away from it’s spider-webbed surface, I felt it breathe, imagining the air rushing in between those cracks, year in, year out. I shivered. Not out of fear, but I felt my mind and body connect and breathe this same air, this tree air, and it ignited something green, fertile, raw, within me, that had been there all along. I felt the mesh of thriving foliage, the ever-creeping green, unceasing, unyielding, so long as the ingredients to ripen kept present. Season after season.
A rolling pulse, electricity, synapses, firing over and over…
I inhaled and stepped back, anchoring mentally, yet curious to see how far things would have gone should I have stayed with that mounting cascade of sensation.
No matter. Another day. A few drops of water fell from his heights.
I would soon head back now. New melodies, music emerged from me as I gathered myself. Then, 2 asanas facing the sun again and I quickly made my way out of the clearing. I stood at the edge, and then, like a proud queen, or lady of avalon I stood on one of the logs and looked up at my great knight: The Lighting Tree.
I knew he was an important part of the forest. Where the bolts had struck him over and over again he had charged the forest walls and electrified it’s grounds: that new life may grow, and the roots carried its messages all throughout; for the land, for the people, for England. He had been opened up and had given up his arms, his leaves save at the very top, to anchor more light / fire, year after year, and I honoured him for that. I said, “I am grateful…”
And, 3 acorns fell in front of me. I was tempted to pick it up, but so many fat squirrels would benefit more than me adorning my space with this gift.
I left. 2 eager dogs on leashes soon met me on the path, followed by their chirpy tune-humming owner. Goodbye now.
I exited the forest with a quicker pace flowing through me, a lighter step, an opened chest, and a focus for the day. Make it great. Make it count. Embrace. Do it.
As I type this, my tummy full from vegetable broth and bacon-wrapped boiled beetroot for lunch, the sun still shines brightly and warm outside, and blue skies lined with fluffy clouds sway and dance into the noon.