Friday, July 20, 2007

Comfort in the wildwood

Sunday July 15, 2007:

The sun struggled through the thick storm laced air. I was early. My friend was still in her bath! Edging past the spreading branches of a heavily laden apple tree I made my way to the little woodland at the end of her large London garden. Beneath the wizen branches of the elderly pear tree, I sat down in dappled shade to wait.

We were going to visit my mother. Nearly six months on since my father’s death, she marched purposefully on in her life, eager to get stuck into her next project but unable to do so until she sold her property.

I felt very anxious about her. She was eighty after all and had recently been diagnosed with an arythmical heart. I so much wanted her to have the life she dreamed of. Now that my father was dead, she could. If only she could sell her house … If only her health would hold up … I sat under the pear tree and fretted.

The traffic on the North circular hummed. Above me, a robin sang. In the next garden, two wood pidgins cooed. At the other end of the garden, a magpie rattled harshly.

A shining golden hare stood before me. Momentarily surprised, I blinked and shook my head. She was still there. I got up and followed her.

We ducked under the hazel tree and pushed our way through the tangled hedge, brushing up against the garden fence. The branches made a tunnel and I pressed through them, bent double, feeling their cool leaves caress my bare arms. In front of me, the hair glimmered in the green gloom.

Now we were out into sunlight, climbing up a mossy bank and then plunging back down into the dark coolness of an older wood. We pushed on, high stepping over fallen logs, easing through the thickets of hawthorn and holly until we emerged into a small quiet clearing in the very heart of the wood.

And there in front of me an old oak tree sat, its ancient trunk twisted and gnarled, whiskery new growth at its base. I looked again and saw that it was a sitting man, his crossed legs, the twisted lower trunk, his straight back, its upright part, the tangled branches, his antlers. The hare shot across the clearing and dived into the space between his feet and curled up and lay quietly.

I stood stock still and gazed. Before long, I felt his eyes on me and, taking a deep breath, I moved closer and knelt before him. My heart was full and I felt tears prick my eyes.

“Lord of the Wildwood, what can I best do to help my mother?” I asked.

“Allow yourself to love her”, the tree seemed to growl from his very core.

Something shifted in side me and I felt rather than heard myself say as tears began to trickle down my cheeks, “Great Lord of the Wildwood, I am in such pain.”

I moved closer, reaching out to touch the rough bark of his knees, drawn, like the hare to sit in the shelter of this great presence and be still. All was quiet. I had nothing to do but be with the grief. And then it came to me, there was no short cut. I had to allow the emotions to move through me in their own time. AS this thought crossed my mind, the tree seemed to rumble his agreement.

Drifting into that twilight place, half asleep, half awake, I felt myself held by the great presence beside me. He offered no words of comfort. No distracting mind chatter came to disturb my reverie. All I had to do was to be here right now. I sat with my sadness and was witnessed and felt grateful.

A voice called urgently from beyond the trees. My friend needed help. Back in her garden, I heard her talking to her helper and turned and raced back to the clearing.

I knelt before the tree and gave thanks for the beauty of the natural world and the peace it gave me. The hare uncurled herself and bounced across the clearing as I turned to follow her back, back through the wildwood, across the mossy bank and through the hazel thicket, back into the London garden, the old pear tree and the humming waking day.


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