and breathe

So here I was, back again to see if the Chiffchaff which greeted me on my first visit had successfully reared a brood of chicks.

The wood today offered a haven from the unusually intense sunshine we’ve been enduring. But the tangled paths, though reassuringly well defined (reducing the possibility of getting lost) ,were not easy to negotiate with nettles and briars forming an armed guard around the increasingly verdant interior.

Pausing to examine a patch of flowers called Woundwort, I breathed in their distinctive smell and found it restorative. As their name suggests they have been used medicinally but are also a home for specialist Shiny Shield Bugs. I had hoped to gather foliage with which to make plant papers for my art project but every leaf I held seemed to host life forms of one type or another. It demanded a rethink for the time being.

As the path reached the Beech trees, the understory changed into a soft carpet of Beech mast which set the tone for a different atmosphere. The shelter provided by the dense tree canopy gave me a feeling of privacy and protection along with respite and an air of calm mystery. Here, with a heightened sense of awareness I came across an old hedge line, reduced to a series of denuded gnarled hawthorn trees presumably robbed of light by the overpowering Beeches. I had been concentrating on breathing deeply aiming to enjoy the life giving benefits that trees are notorious for but here was evidence to the contrary. The ghostly tree line pointed to the reality of how this space has hosted a succession of life forms and will continue to change with time.

As I made my way back towards the entrance I was alerted by repeated ‘whisping’ contact calls of Chiffchaffs. Foraging frenziedly amongst the sycamore leaves was a parent bird pursued by several offspring. Heartened by this  reassuring evidence of continuing life cycles I left the wood.

Still with thoughts of ‘ghost trees’ on my mind, I called in to the church yard. The ancient grave stones were equally gnarled and twisted, with half obscured lettering announcing, ‘here lies the body of…..’. More ghosts - and yet everywhere signs of growth, buzzing insects and life carrying on.

July 2022
Sue Harrison