‘What would it be useful to know before Wild therapy at Ecodharma?’ I was thinking to myself this morning, pulling my striped socks over my heels. I was soon heading off to the Forest of Dean to spend time in a wilder place. I’m preparing for Wild therapy – it’s never a plan to ask others to do half days and solo days away unless I’ve recently done the same myself (sudden qualm – it never feels right driving/taking the train to do Wild therapy. And yet, and yet. I get in the van, qualming and compromising…)
A magpie swoops over me as I reach Falcondale Road – ah, hello world community! – it’s not just humans. So easy to only notice the two-leggeds scurrying around and their heads behind wheels. I head off on this known route, before surprising myself by deviating left past the cemetery. I take the wrong road in Avonmouth. Not a big problem, but a fleeting ouch to my always knowing where I am pride. Where the road meets the bridge across the big river there’s a turn back to Bristol – shall I take it and forget about today? Defeat’s not far away, apparently.
To get back on track I drive through 30 mph ribbon towns after passing a hearse bearing a Union Jack clad coffin. I’m slowed in my tracks by the coffin and the speed limit. Realising I’m not exactly lost but I don’t know exactly where I am, I relax. The relief of not knowing, too. The joy of daffodil, cherry blossom, camelia, primrose, magnolia, at a slower speed. At the edge of town the daffodils are planted in bursts. Their drama is thrilling for a moment ‘til what comes to mind – from where? – the burst of bombs in Syria and the hypocrisy of selling nerve gas to the country. Years later bombs accompanied by May’s lie ‘we’re protecting innocent people’.
I arrive at Chepstow. Lest I think I could speed up, I’m now following a petrol tanker with ‘Momentum’ emblazoned across its rump. Apparently it’s premium fuel from Tesco. It makes me smile to think that Mr Tesco’s fuel tanker is not only slowing me up, but also offering up in its name a speed and mass-related ‘flirt’ (in the words of Arny Mindell).
I have time to wonder whether I should head to a different destination, since I’ve already taken two wrong turns. My thoughts turn to my five times great grandfather, a Zionist preacher who was for a while based in Soudley in the north of the Forest of Dean. A preacher. The word stings a little today, because I was told I was ‘coming across as preachy’ on Facebook on Friday. I didn’t mean to, I was sharing my sadness in response to the image of beautiful, pristine snow on a friend’s skiing holiday. In looking, taking in its untouched beauty, I touched sadness knowing the harm we’re causing the world and our wide-scale refusal to look at our own part in this.
My mistake (?) was to share my sadness and to be real in a fake news, sunny side up medium. I see life glass half empty, apparently, or, at least that’s the full conclusion of my friend and her friend’s comments to me and his sarcasm (ouch). Maybe I put an unintended dampener on their crepuscular drinks on the mountain-top terrace? I delete the comment, coming over heartbroken rather than preachy.
I decide not to change destination, but to follow my meandering nose. Preach – is there a place for it? The word used in common parlance is a total turn off, but I don’t mind the definitions I find: ‘To publicly proclaim or teach’, ‘to earnestly advocate’. Doesn’t sound so bad. Is it preachy if it’s about the sorrows and losses of climate change and human delusion but not preachy if you intimate that your friend is glass half empty?
I reach the forest – finally – and after losing my bearings, again! Beech. Gleaming green moss. Flitting Blue Tit. A rainbow-coloured drone, for a moment I thought an out of place kingfisher, appears down a track, entertaining workmen on a break. Blast of fresh air and birdsong as I open the door. April light in a beech woods, majesty and spaciousness – nature’s cathedral. I bow down.
I venture towards a shrine between two tall trees, a Christmas tree planted between. For a moment I can’t believe my eyes and have to touch the five fake blood red and hot pink life-sized fake peony flowers in a vase. I stand a moment and send a prayer to whoever is commemorated there – tin hearts nailed to the tree’s trunk. I take a photo I won’t share. I take it in case I thought I dreamed it, later. I feel like it is or I am invading privacy – of the tree, of the person, I’m not sure, but there’s an eeriness. I pass another commemorative tree and want to pull out the nails in the trunk securing the red ribbon and laminated paper.
The forest floor is carpeted in soon to be bluebells; delicious anticipation. A squirrel leaps between trees behind me; elegant footwork. When I re-trace my steps back to the tree trunk collapsed across the rough path – the moss on its north side like the skin of an exotic, multi-coloured giraffe – I realise I am called again by the preaching great grandfather, and by chance I have found myself on the road heading towards Soudley. I obey the call, for a change, and notice that the sun is suddenly on my back.