My typical haunts for photowalks are churchyards, villages, fields and woodland.
In recent months I’ve been staying more local – in part due to pandemic guidance, and in part just to explore my “backyard” more closely – which has consisted mostly of the woods at the back of our house, criss-crossed with public footpaths.
These tree lined adventures have reminded me of a few things.
Not least of all how lucky I am to live in a rural and pretty part of the county (and country) where nature is on my doorstep.
It’s also restored and heightened my relationship with trees.
One of my earliest memories of school is cross country running though a local woodland estate.
I was pretty good at it, and had excellent stamina, so on this occasion I was comfortably ahead of the pack, and remember hearing that steady swoosh whoosh cadence of my feet slicing through the autumn leaves that carpeted the woodland floor.
And virtually nothing else.
That silence, that serenity, in the close company of the trees, had a deep impact on me.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been in the woods of course, but it was probably the first time I’d realised the effect it had on me, and how, well myself, I felt. Like this was where I belonged.
I’ve had similar feelings since with certain people.
Being with my wife feels like home.
Being with certain social groups in the past – like the salsa club I belonged to and taught at for four years – was another example.
But in terms of physical surroundings, nowhere else is quite like the woods for me.
We were at the beach today, and whilst I’m happy to wander along the shore and marvel and the mighty ocean (preferably in a colder season with virtually no-one else around, if I’m being picky), I can take or leave the seaside experience.
I wouldn’t make a special trip alone to the sea just for the feelings it gave me.
But I would – and frequently do – make such pilgrimages to the woods.
The trees calm me, soothe me, ground me, replenish me.
The trees are my family.
The trees are my friends.
I’m not sure what I’d do without them, especially in the more chaotic and difficult times.
How about you? Where do physically feel most calm, most at home, most yourself?
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