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Forest & Soul

by Silvia Hartmann

Forest & Soul
  • Take me to the perfect place in time and space where a lost soul needs my help today ...

The day is fair, bright and breezy, a meadow underfoot that never saw a scythe or herds of sheep.



This is a land of hills and valleys, old they look and old they feel, as though there once were mountains here but time has sanded down the rugged tips of rugged stones to soft and flowing shapes - if you stood high up on the top of one of these, it would be like looking at a sea, an ocean made from rock below and covered by an embrace of many tiny plants ...

I look around and I look up. No birds fly in this sky and there are no animals; when I listen, I can't hear small insect sounds. There is wind, sprightly but as there is nothing for it to catch or echo on, even that has a distinctive absense of sound.

There are no dwellings I can see from here but there is certainly something very restful and relaxing about this place, I guess I should fly to take the higher view but in this case, I can't be bothered and want to lie down instead.

So I do and look up into the sky for a while where white clouds are doing their cloud thing, and they're doing it very well indeed; then I turn over and look at the small meadow plants.

There is an interesting variety of tiny things growing here.

Indeed, if one was to shift one's point of view, as I'm about to, one would note that we're not looking at grasses here, but at tiny trees and shrubs and bushes instead.

I am lying on an elder forest!

This makes me laugh - and then I hastily float, as I must have crushed many a thousand acres here and God alone knows how many creatures - I float and then tune further into this tiny forest, tiny from this perspective, but now growing, growing on me, as I let the process continue until I feel a sense of proportion and I am standing in a forest, now, there's birdsound, now, there's crackling in the undergrowth, insects, and now, I can hear voices.

I can hear shouting, the voices of many men, and as I move towards the source of the shouting, I reflect on the fact that to the inhabitants here, this forest is never-ending, it is completely infinite and never turns to lake or ocean shore, or desert, mountain top at all, and they could walk or run forever and never get beyond this forest.

I walk through the trees, stately and big they are, thousands of years old, completely dominating the habitat and leaving only the smallest of room for a few fern like things and certain bushes, I shift myself a little further to fit in, make my clothes take on the hue of forest greens and browns, a cloak of leaves like feathers around my shoulders and a staff becomes in my hand, a piece of wood of course, old and turned naturally, a powerful thing that also aids my walk.

I step into a space prescribed by huge trees that have grown to form a standing circle, and here I see many men, all men, no women, dressed much like I am too, and they are arguing amongst themselves.

At the center of the argument is a young man, fair haired and frightened; he is intimidated by the older, larger shouting men and yet his dress and demeanour marks him out to be an authority, a leader perhaps.

The first of the many men in the circle of standing trees notices me, then more do; eventually they all fall silent and turn to face me.

They are amazed; I do not feel threatened by them.

For a time we just stand and all the forest sounds become much louder in our silence; this is quite a cacophony, peace and quiet would be hard to find here.

Then I notice that the men all start to look to the young fair one and it is he who steps forward and raises a cautious hand in greeting.

I bow to him lightly and likewise, step closer; we keep cautiously moving in on each other until we are about three men's lengths apart and then he says something to me.

I have to adjust to understand his language; it is not a language I have ever heard before and it has some rather peculiar features to it. I adjust some more and so I understand as he tells me they are travellers, they are lost, low on provisions, promises of good conduct and trade in return for shelter and food.

The fair young man, hardly more than a boy and he has never had to shave as yet, has lovely grey eyes and he is the soul I'm here to save, of that I have no doubt.

I ask him to walk a way with me, to discuss his situation.

The other men are nervous about this, they clearly feel they need him and don't want to lose him, so I send them a field of soothing and the information that the black berries on the small bushes are not only edible, but in fact extremely nutritious. Starving as they are, they immediately set to and go to the bushes, bend down and start to pick the berries and to eat.

I can tell the young man is hungry too but he focuses on me, so I smile and we walk.

As we walk away, I begin to understand that we are not here to talk, I am walking him away from these men, I am walking him out of the forest.

As he follows me through the giant trees, there comes a time when he knows that too and here, he becomes scared and uncomfortable - the men are his responsibility, and even though he doesn't know what to do, he is still the only chance they had ...

But he can't go back now, and even if he did, he would not find the men again; they have disappeared into the bushes, become immaterial, for they were of his making, to give him a reason to go on beyond reason, and as he understands that, he sighs and follows me as we walk.

And as we walk, I understand that there is a journey we are taking here, step by step unfolding something, step by step moving on a journey that was disrupted, was de-railed, had led him to where he was and now this was being not exactly undone, as time was needed, time and distance walked, and things remembered as well as other things forgotten, as step by step we move further and further away from what there was, and get closer and closer to what there is ...

He is becoming scared again as we get closer to what there is, and what there is is that moment when he died, alone in the forest, abandoned by his men, starved to death, scared to death right up until the very end, and praying they would come back for him, of course, they never did.

And so we find beneath the roots of an old, old tree with moss growing on its massive trunk the scattered remnants of his skeleton, and we stand in silence and observe the few remaining bones, forest animals carried much away, and how they have grown into the roots of the tree, and how he has become a part of this forest.

I look to him and his shape is no longer clearly defined; he is becoming energy as his will to keep his flesh and bone together ebbs and ebbs away, he is becoming light and as he is, I feel more and more a gathering of intense joy and rightness, a wonderful sensation that blesses my own bones and makes them feel radiant and light, and our light combines, and this light the forest is different, the trees are spirits, elder beings, guardians who have helped to keep him safe until the time had come, and it is here and now.

All is radiance, all is light - I have no words to say how much I love you.


SFX

May 2011

  by Silvia Hartmann   

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