Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Evanton Woods

I’m hesitant to declare that fairies don’t exist. They probably don’t but I don’t want to be responsible for killing Tinkerbell.  I’d like to think that there is a little magic and mystery that we haven’t quite explained away with science.

The last few months I have been hanging around with the Poetry in Motion gang. It’s an offshoot of Creativity in Care. While other creative writing groups huddle indoors with pen, paper and prompts, Poetry in Motion heads out of doors, taking inspiration from nature.

Although I was invited, I felt somewhat a gate crasher as I arrived at Evanton woods late Saturday afternoon. It wasn’t really about poetry, although poems were shared.  Saturday was a celebration of winning an award. The woods belong to the Evanton Wood Community Company.  A long time ago I knew people in Evanton. It turned out that the people I knew then were part of the company. It was nice to catch up although I admit to fluffing names of kids now grown up that I’d once taught in Sunday School. The company had won a health and wellbeing award. There was a plaque and a cheque and a need to mark the occasion.

Being a few days after the summer solstice and mid-summer’s night, Shakespeare was on the menu. The plan was a short, steep and slow walk around a part of the forest not keeping to the main paths but forging through the foliage. We stopped every so often to read a poem or a quotation or act out a scene. We were accompanied along the way by two young musicians. A guitar and a fiddle provided lively tunes as we travelled along.

“Let’s take our hearts for a walk in the woods and listen to the magic whispers of old trees.” Author Unknown

Evanton woods was new territory to me. Although I spent time in Evanton years ago I never visited to woods. My younger friends had a passion for playing hide and seek, in the dark, in the woods, but I deemed myself too grown up for such frolics. I am not afraid of the dark, but neither am I at home in it. I am less grown up these days and much more inclined to frolic. It could be the onset of early eccentricity.

I doubt the trees in any woods have ever been so sweetly serenaded as they were on Saturday. Do trees smile? The Bible uses images of trees clapping their hands. Had I been a tree I would have clapped. They were not just somewhere in the background doing tree stuff while we walked and chatted and breathed in forest fragrances.  They were centre stage, being applauded.

“For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.” Martin Luther.

It wasn’t too fanciful to imagine that the trees were being entertained. They understood a message that some people, the ones in the community wood company and friends, recognised the need to connect to forests and nature. We are the takers in this world, very rarely the givers. The company gives its time to maintaining the woods, chopping bits back, replanting new stuff, finding ways to teach people bush craft and educating people about the diversity of plants, insects and animals.

I have done a lot of reading over the last few months about issues to do with creation and evolution. I am not a creationist but they talk about God's two great books that reveal His nature. One is the written word – the Bible. The second is God revealed in nature. The one doesn’t contradict the other. I may be able to read the Bible, but I fumble to read nature – It’s a language that I am not fluent in. Saturday’s people were fluent nature speakers. It was no wonder I said so little.

“The trees are God’s great alphabet:
With them He writes in shining green
Across the world His thoughts serene.”
~Leonora Speyer

Do you know, I think I said “Thank you” to at least one tree? There was a steep part of the path and I was making my way down hesitantly gripping one tree trunk after another. I traced pattern in the bark. Has I been on my own, chances are I wouldn’t have taken that path, but had I, I would have stopped and touched and dreamed a little. I would have strained to hear tree conversations. One tree trunk was so covered in rich green moss that my fingers wanted to linger.

It was not hard to think of fairies. The wood was so quiet. If, as some fairy-lovers suggest, we have pushed these mythical beings into hidden places, I would suggest that they hide in Evanton woods!

Us sing and dance, make faces and give flower bouquets, trying to be loved. You ever notice that trees do everything to git attention we do, except walk? ~Alice Walker, The Color Purple, 1982

There is something un-striving about nature. That’s not true. What appears to be peaceful isn’t really. All forms of life are in competition whether for food or water or adequate space. Another thing I learned on my creation/evolution travels is that the Victorians were shocked not about the apparent lack of a need for God when Darwin shared his observations. He talked about survival of the fittest and the dog eat dog way of life. Nature wasn’t about peace and harmony and lambs and rabbits frolicking (I like that word – frolic) but about predators and their prey. It didn’t tie in with the Victorian idealistic view of nature.

I hear the wind among the trees
Playing the celestial symphonies;
I see the branches downward bent,
Like keys of some great instrument.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In all my encounters with woods and forests I feel better for having walked there. I breathe a different air. I think settled thoughts. My imagination is given permission to see fairies and talk to trees. I feel connected.

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