Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Gift of a Leaf

I don’t spend enough time outdoors. It doesn’t seem to matter than the scenery around me is wonderful, or that I have a bus pass to get me to places – I am a lover of pottering at home. I was already coming up with excuses why I might not make it to Poetry in Motion and their ramblings around Evanton Woods. You’ll be glad to know I refused to listen to myself. I hunted down bus times, made a packed lunch, picked up my broken brolly and headed for the bus stop.

It was a cloudy day with a hint of drizzle. I’d given myself plenty of time to get from the bus stop in Evanton to the forest cabin. I arrived a tad too early and the man who was going to unlock the toilet hadn’t arrived, so I headed off to a solitary part of the wood, well concealed from the walkers, and conducted much needed business.

Artists and foragers had been invited to come along. I suppose it takes artists to know other artists, and people who know how to light a fire to know other people that know how to light fires. They were people who exuded wholesomeness and a settled nature spirit that I don’t possess. A man, Mark, carved a spoon while we sat talking around a fire. He was slowly working his way along the branches and trunk of a cherry tree that had fallen within walking distance of his house. Whittling was His way of meditation.  A woman had made a cake of foraged fruits. There was a big basket of wild mushrooms and a bowl of berries. A table was spread with paper, pens and pencils for the artists to experiment.

A visit to Japan had inspired the meeting in the forest. Moves were being made there to encourage people to spend an hour to two a week “forest bathing”. Just watching trees is beneficial, or just listening to birdsong and the breeze among the branches. Trees release oils that not only smell good but can calm or energise. Smelling or touching soil is good for the immune system.

Re-connecting to nature is something we all ought to do. Trees live so much longer than people. Sometimes it is good to be reminded of how fleeting our own life is. We don’t have time to waste on things that stress us out. Decluttering, whether is it a room in a house or a space inside our heads – we need to make life simpler. We need to take time to “be” out of our busy routine of what we “do”.

I lament that I have grown up without someone passing nature-truth on to me. I struggle to identify trees or wildflowers. Left to my own devices I would not be able to survive off nature. I’d likely starve not because I ate something poisonous but because I was too afraid of poisoning myself to try eating anything.

Desert Island discs, and the choice of what books to take alongside a Bible and complete works of Shakespeare – I would like the Girl Guide handbook which I’m sure contains tactics for survival.

We had just a few minutes of meandering, leaning against trees, rubbing tree bark or holding dirt in the palm of our hand. We didn’t have the prescribed two hours. A leaf fell from a tree and landed on my lap while we were sitting beside the fire. It was a small brown leaf. It had a "given" feel to it. I slipped it into the pocket of my jacket. I wrote down the first line of a poem there and then. I liked the idea of the tree giving away its leaves deliberately rather than the wind tossing the leaves randomly about. We take so much for granted. We know things about the science of how things happen that we forget the wonder and the mystery of it all. We have grown up too quickly and left our dreams behind. It’s nice to stop and let the dream catch us up.

The Gift of a Leaf

I’m giving you a leaf

It’s my best leaf

Rain fresh

Warmed by the sun

Soaked in silence

I’ve been saving it for you

I give it to you

Not casually as if

I have so many that I

Can afford to lose one

Not carelessly as if

You just happen to be there

As my leaf spirals down.

I give it – and with it

I give you the wind whispered wisdom

Written on every vein.

It rests gently on your palm

Lightly, joyfully bestowed

I give you a little bit of me

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