Hard to fathom it was back in September last year when I was last on this site, no intentions to take a break of seven months, no idea then that Hurricane Fiona was days away.
The aftermath of which was certainly a big part of my absence. And not just in the way of getting over the shock, or even the clean-up, which will be years in the doing, but because big events cause big shifts in ways you sometimes don’t even know are possible. Big shifts in the crevices of our lives. The way we think about things mostly.
Not the least of which is how I’ve come to think about the forest. When we first arrived here to this house near the sea and at the edge of the Wald (a german word that I love), I remember looking at some leaning trees in the distance and bemoaning the fact that they were too far away to cut or straighten, that they cluttered the otherwise beautiful Wald, gave it a messy look because of course trees should be upright, never dead, and full of twittering bluebirds. The best forests are like that. Aren’t they?
Turns out they are not. If you look closely at any healthy forest (not a park setting but a natural woodland) you’ll see dishevelment. You have to look closely though. A quick glance only gives the Disney impression, moss and ferns and rich earth, dappled sunlight, etc., all of which is there too. But look at the dead wood, the fallen trees, the decay that becomes new habitat, the saplings that find slivers of sky and sunshine that reach out and take those saplings by the hand and say this way!
Fiona created more than dishevelment.
I spent hours every day walking through our ravaged Wald. Wept at the number of trees down, hundreds of them, like piles of enormous pick-up sticks, only most of these will never be moved except by time and the elements. It occurred to me that I was walking in the Wald more often than I did before Fiona, when the trails were clear. I was always drawn to the shore then, the forest was right there, it could wait. But now the forest called to me several times a day as if it had something to teach, it actually felt that way, and as I took in the devastation daily, sat amongst the debris breathing deeply in sadness but something else too, I noticed a huge white pine I’d never seen before, still standing, and named her Mother for the comfort of her presence, how she seemed to suggest that, despite appearances, all was in fact well, that life goes on. I soon realized that the yin yang of everything is here too, renewal in disaster. I was in anguish for the forest but the forest didn’t feel troubled. And pretty soon neither did I.
The forest, it turns out, is an excellent teacher.
I began to notice all kinds of things that felt new, things I’d walked past before. The tiniest twigs, which I now took the time to identify and celebrate as young birch, maple, oak, or beech. I watched red squirrels move into piles of brush as we cleared new paths and thought how the space had never been so alive with birds (had it?), chickadees greeting me every morning, landing on my outstretched hands, the way sunlight came through new gaps in the canopy. I’ve always embraced nature in a huge way, even as a kid. Outside is my favourite place to be, trees were always my friends, and the cycle of regeneration was something I’ve always known about but didn’t think about it in a deep way, something I just took for granted. Fiona made it impossible to take much for granted.
So this is part of what I’ve been doing all these months.
Falling in love in a new way.
And loving the surprise of its domino effect.