For as long as I can remember I have always felt a deep connection to forests and woods and the wild places neglected by urban sprawl. Large portions of my childhood were spent investigating the countryside and woods near my home. I especially liked to cross fields, furtively, like a wild animal watching for the farmer or gamekeepers who, it was widely known amongst my peers, carried shotguns, to visit those clumps of trees you often see, sometimes on the top of little hills, like islands in the otherwise flat, sea of farmland. Is there a name for that kind of feature? I know some people call them “nearly home trees”, when returning from a journey in a car, they recognize them as being close to home.
There is an alchemy at work here, the sounds, the odours, the play of light and wind in the leaves and branches, an alchemy that sends tremors of delight through my bones.
“Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig
and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:
maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,
a cracked bell, or a torn heart.
Something from far off it seemed
deep and secret to me, hidden by the earth,
a shout muffled by huge autumns,
by the moist half-open darkness of the leaves.
Wakening from the dreaming forest there, the hazel-sprig
sang under my tongue, its drifting fragrance
climbed up through my conscious mind
as if suddenly the roots I had left behind
cried out to me, the land I had lost with my childhood–
and I stopped, wounded by the wandering scent.”
~ Pablo Neruda ~
“It is strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone. Behind your image, below your words, above your thoughts, the silence of another world awaits. A world lives within you. No-one else can bring you news of this inner world. Through our voices, we bring out sounds from the mountain beneath the soul. These sounds are words. The world is full of words. There are so many talking all the time, loudly, quietly, in rooms, on streets, on TV, on radio, in the paper, in books. The noise of words keeps what we call the world there for us. We take each other’s sounds and make patterns, predictions, benedictions and blasphemies. Each day our tribe of language holds what we call the “world” together. Yet the uttering of the word reveals how each of us relentlessly creates. Everyone is an artist. Each person brings sound out of silence and coaxes the invisible to become visible.” So wrote, John O’Donohue in the prologue to his book, Anam Cara, (Soul Friend) a wonderful exploration and meditation of Celtic spirituality, philosophy and mythology.