Today’s guest blog is from writer Barbara Erskine and is titled A Walk in the Wood.
I’ve just come in from the wood. It is growing dark and snow flurries are hurtling out of the east. By tomorrow they say it will have turned to blizzards. The wood, ‘My’ wood was planted 16 years ago, it’s now a proper wood, about 6 acres, with proper trees, oak and chestnut, with holly and guilder rose, and crab apple, dog wood and cherry. And it’s the cherry which are beginning already to look old and hoary. The wood belongs to the trees now, not me, and to the animals and birds. It has an identity; a personality. Walking through it once, perhaps twice a day I notice minute changes. A twig here. A broken branch there. Squirrel damage, badger digging, exposed roots, gnawed and polished smooth in the snow. Claw and teeth marks on the tree trunks The green shoots of daffodils (soon the rabbits will eat them like candy sticks) Snowdrops. Tracks. I’m still learning to recognise them. Count the toes. Or the hooves? Can you see the claws? And there, near the lower pond, amongst the dried stalks of willow herb and horsetail, what in the world can have paws that big?? And that’s when I suddenly feel that I’m trespassing. It’s getting dark. The wood belongs to the night creatures. And to the unseen. Suddenly, out of the blue, it’s scary. Someone or something is watching me. It doesn’t want me there. I can feel the terror beginning in the pit of my stomach. I know every inch of this place. Every tree. Every rabbit hole, in every direction and every season, but suddenly I’m lost. Nothing looks the same. I want to get out. Go home. Sit by the fire. Watch TV. I’m too scared to move.
And then it’s gone. Whoever, whatever it was, has gone.
A brush with the wild? The all too precious wild in this small island. A brush with one of the other worlds? Who knows. Is this what is described in that atmospheric poem Jungle Fear?
Sitting down with relief at my laptop I blow on my fingers to warm them and check Philip’s blog to see if any other guest has signed in yet. And read the last post there: ‘The Risks of the Magical Path’ and scroll down to the paragraph on getting spooked. Coincidence? No. There are no coincidences. I was spooked. No question.
And, I’ve read the books. Know the formulae. Got the amulets. But there was still a fifteen minute walk alone through dark, clutching branches – Arthur Rackham comes to mind!- before I was once more out in the open spaces and in sight of the house. And all my spiritual training, my druid learning, my protection and my prayers were nothing against the primitive gut twisting moment of irrational terror in that quiet little wood on the edge of a quiet country garden.
Ah. Someone has just told me that the local ‘black cat’ (puma/panther?) was seen only a few miles from here, last week. Could my feeling actually have been an atavistic life preserving instinct? A very real fear of being eaten.
And does that thought make me feel better or worse?
You can visit Barbara’s web site on www.barbara-erskine.com