The Ghost In The Woods
I feel like I’m chasing ghosts.
Plantation lines of Douglas fir form dry, needled channels and darkened paths. You move among them, aiming steps at protruding roots, grateful for the dependency of wood propelling you on.
You bob and weave in a silent dance, placing footsteps like sowing seams.
Dark and then light and then dark and then light and dark and light.
I run to be alone.
By the river you emerge.
Here the path is flanked by peeling sliver birch and tumbling oak and you fly over mulchy dips where burns trickle and pools gather. In summer the bracken is so tall that you duck and disappear into neon green portals.
You move with a deftness that might be imagined or real but hardly matters either way. You become part of it, the dab of your feet barely stirring the layers.
I run for silence.
Sometimes, when a twig cracks under a mistimed step you will scald yourself for unnecessary sound, for breaking rhythm.
You aim to breathe lightly, to flow with the forest, to absorb.
I run to feel cool drops gathered on leaves soak to skin.
Passing fingertips on arms spread wide stroke leaves and boughs and trunks. It’s a tactile, silent greeting. An acknowledgment that you all begin and end the same.
There’s something here. Something in this touch you can’t explain.
All you know is that the feeling washes through you like a river draining into a retreating tide.
At these times an unexpected touch of light can feel like a needle in your vein.
I run to be astonished.
The only sound in this place is necessary. It’s a sanctuary from a world where no-one is quiet. An escape from meaningless noise and broadcasts of the trivial.
There is no triviality here. Every sound and movement is part of a living world that existed long before us.
I run to be part of it.
The forest reminds us of our deep past. It’s a place we can’t fully understand, a place for survival and secrecy. But it shows how lost we’ve become, how far we’ve drifted from the cover of trees. It returns us to ground, thrusts us into vulnerability. And this baring of our soft underbellies makes us feel alive. It returns us to what we once were: just an animal trying to find a path through the trees.
I run for cover.
Maybe our withdrawal to the woods is a response to a world that’s increasingly beyond comprehension and control.
Our vestigial selves writhe in agony, then break free, running.
We flee glass and concrete, warmed beds and LCD comforts, supermarkets and strip lights.
The animal in us runs for cover as its form fades.
We scamper across pavements and under streetlights, leaping a stone wall here, vaulting fence wire there, wraithlike forms, like breaths in cold air.
As we reach the ancient safety of trees we begin to take shape, becoming at once something more human, yet something more animal.
We feel the first strokes of water and leaves, and we are actualised.
Somehow, I know this is where I need to be.
I run to be welcomed home.