The Green Grimoire – Disconnect to Reconnect
It is you who are broken, you are part of me,
There is no separation, so dance sing, and be free.
So I wrote back in 2000. I’ve said this before, it’s a funny old thing writing songs. Sometimes you can sweat and work over a single line for days, months even, and at other times the words seem to appear on the page and you wonder where they came from. Some lines follow you through life, and others can sometimes fade into the background, only to step forward at some future date and remind you with a big fat slap around the head.
Those lines gave me a big old slap some months ago.
I’m 100% sure I’m not alone in this feeling. Look, I’m going to say it, Brexit, combined with Trump, Johnson, followed by Covid, has not been good for the mental health. I recognised that my soul needed healing and I knew exactly where I needed to go.
I wanna go where I can heal my soul, talk to the wisest people I know…
As I said at the end of the last Green Grimoire post, I got on my walking boots and headed off to the woods. It was a crisp Spring morning. The destination was Warren Hill, a woodland in the Sussex countryside locally known as Sleepy Hollow. Owned and managed by the National Trust it can be busy sometimes, but it’s big enough to walk through and still feel quite alone. It is on part of the Sussex Downs and there are areas of ancient deciduous woodland, an old pine plantation, a beechwood called Jenner’s Wood, and a network of paths runs throughout. We parked the car, Oscar jumped out, head-turning in all directions, tail wagging.
Sussex is a highly populated county. It’s never as quiet as those areas of the Highlands and Islands where it’s still possible to stand and not hear any human-made sound, but in Spring it is still such a beautiful landscape – like a glorious garden paradise. Immediately I could smell the earth. I could hear birdsong and the swift rat-a-tat of a woodpecker. A few children playing in the field just beside the car park. We chose our path and headed up the slope of the Downs into the woods.
Woodlands are communities. Trees, plants, animals, insects, birds. This is their home. I am obviously a visitor and I always like to tune into the Spirit of the Woods as I step within. The trees are doing tree things, the birds and animals doing bird and animal things, but I am no threat. I may take the shape of one of Nature’s most feared predators, but that is not why I am here today. Very rarely, but it does happen, I get the impression to take another path – don’t walk this way – but usually the woodlands literally open up, and welcomes with open arms. Well, open branches.
Deeper into the woods and the air feels and smells like the most healing elixir. It touches my skin and I get goosebumps. As I breathe it in I know that I am in a deep relationship with the green around me – I breathe out what they need, they breathe out what I need, and the cycle continues. With every step, I let go of the noise of human-centric existence. I’ve muted my phone, I’m not thinking about that ‘discussion’ on Facebook, that bill that needs to be paid, what blah said to blah. For this moment there is only me, Cerri, Oscar and the woods. And it’s bliss. These moments are so vitally important. It doesn’t stop all of those other things from happening, but it also is true that those things don’t need my constant attention or indeed change if I take moments of peace and retreat.
For a long time, I had felt that I needed to be utterly in touch with world events. I would watch the news and look at the news apps on my phone maybe every hour or so. Look through Twitter, scroll endlessly (I mean, literally endlessly) through my Facebook feed, and the result was I would get exhausted, depressed and burnt out. I’ve come to the realisation that this is exactly what these platforms want me to do. It used to be that the news was on TV at 1 pm and at 6 pm each day, and I would sit there as a child wondering why my Dad would shout at the TV when they so obviously couldn’t hear him. Then years later I sat reading political posts from friends on Facebook doing exactly the same thing – shouting at the politicians – and they couldn’t hear them either. The difference is that now it’s 24-hour news, a lot of it is not The News, but more like Some News, and then it’s incredibly hard to know if it’s even the ‘Truth’. And what is the ‘Truth’ anyway…?
So I don’t do that anymore. I look at Facebook maybe once every other day, for about 5 minutes. I read the news once a day. That’s plenty. And I’ve noticed that the loss of my constant vigilance has changed nothing. It’s all still there when I read it, but now on my terms. Stepping into the car to go to the woods I silence my phone. I know all of the noise is still there in my pocket, but in my pocket, it will stay. My phone is now just a phone, and maybe a camera.
I’m here to slow down.
Trees are magnificent beings. All being well most will outlive us, and their lives operate at a much slower pace. A much slower pace. Slowing down when walking into a woodland is so important. Yes, silence the inner chatter, be open, but ever wondered why you hear so much birdsong when you just walk briskly into the woods and rarely see any animals? The birds sound lovely, don’t they? But that song is the sentinel birds of the woodland shouting at the top of their voices “The most feared predator of the planet is coming! Get yourselves away, NOW!” If we really slow down, breathe, tune in, and then walk gently into the woods, we might well hear a different tone in the songs of the birds.
The walk is done.
Healed, alive, rested, and reconnected.
If you agree, come and join me, under the trees.