Who Will Go Walk in the Woods?

I’m reading three books connected with trees and well-being at once at the moment: at Mat’s suggestion, Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock; Max Adams’ The Wisdom of Trees and partly at Jon’s prompting Paul Gilbert’s Overcoming Depression. In the first, the Antiqua Silva asserts itself over a troubled house; in the second, there is appreciation of beauty, of effect, of the impact of the tree in Western culture; in the third I am exhorted to find/create an image of a safe space. Might I imagine a wood, full of green light? Woodland as therapeutic space: this blog returns to it again.

It appears that dasotherapy is not  the neologism I’d thought: it occurs in a spa in Belarus. That’s not quite the use I’d hoped for, though, either. as I think about the Trees and Wellbeing conference that (almost) served as punctuation to an emotional rollercoaster of a fortnight – or month, or two months…

So when today I had some news I needed to turn over I’m my head, I went for a walk. A bit of time in the quiet green. Dasotherapy. Still not sure of the word.

I am immensely lucky I have the beautiful grounds of Harcourt campus as part of my work place. A muntjac was browsing, two magpies fighting or mating – bickering, whatever – in the canopy of weedy ash and sycamore.
It is not the canopy of Chiltern beechwood but in its way is beautiful. It may not be grand, but it is full of life and growth. I think of Roger Deakin’s accounts of walnuts in Ortok and ash in Suffolk; of Richard Mabey’s Unofficial Countryside and the marginalia of landscapes; and then of his Nature Cure.  Mabey speculates here at his lyrical best, describing his fens (but in truth praising any ecosystem):

…there is a general movement towards the development of woodland…but against this there is a corresponding, intrinsic drive towards variety, flexibility, subtle forms of symbiosis and partnership.

I feel like here I almost catch up with him. There seem to me to be all sorts of reactions to woods- places of awe, of menace, of folklore or inspiration to “high” culture, or an impetus to preserve, or to admire the invasive… but today in this scrubby green sanctuary, the volatility of woodland strikes me: young woodland, with trees competing for sunlight. Today I don’t need the ancient menace of Mythago to tell me how movable a wood is, or Ward’s Ancient Oak in Max Adams  to tell me how we grow old, how life is unstable and mutable. We operate on different timescales, but we too are seedlings, race for the light, and overreach ourselves and fade. Talis vita hominum- today, not to do with sparrows.

 

 

 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Who Will Go Walk in the Woods?

  1. Roy says:

    A lovely, thought provoking piece.
    I am lucky enough to have a large woodland/country park at my doorstep, and find myself down there a few times a week. I find the woodland is in a perpetual state of rejuvenation, and that’s very comforting.

  2. nicktomjoe says:

    Yes, the changeability of “The Outdoors” has been commented on by various writers in terms of the affordances of nature, and it’s as true (as you suggested, Roy) of you and me as it is of children. In the days when I taught in Durham I used to take my class down the local lane without telling them to look at this or that, so that they could see it for themselves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.