Shhh! I’ve found somewhere perfect for us to hide from life – don’t tell anyone! Come on…let me show you, but quiet…tread softly until we’re out of sight, out of mind, and then we can be free (if only for a short while).
Take my hand and step this way…
It’s the sunlight I love most about being in the woods. There’s something magical and almost intimate about the way the trees seem to still all noises, creating a hush between their trunks, as though the world had come under their spell and slipped into a half-awake state. The occasional flurry of birdsong adds cascades of melody to the sunshine, pouring in regal, gold-moted columns through the canopy to dapple the forest floor.
Even on gloomy days, when mist shrouds the forest and everything shines dew-dropped and sopping, the greens – deep and luscious in the conifers, through to the wafer-thin lime over each oak tree, with lichens and mosses coating roots with spongy, trailing greys and yellows – still pop out and please the eye, in spite of the sodden, incessant damp and the scent of loamy earth, rich as fruit cake, which pervades except where the sharp resin of the pine trees cuts through.
But on days like today – when our feet dance crisply across last year’s leaves, and the tree tops meet overhead creating a tunnel around our pathway, drawing our mind’s eye ahead to the delights which await us around the next corner – the forest is at its most glorious. High summer is the best time of year here, and the jigsaw of green overhead allows warmth to seep down with the spangled light, and the insects zither lazily; heat-drugged and loving it.
Can you smell the salt yet? See how the light in the sky has changed – that richness has gone, and it’s paler; brighter and reflecting off…oh! Run with me…two corners more until you see…
Our own bay; down a small hill and through reed covered dunes, rolling in sandy mimicry of the waves ahead. We can walk for hours, collecting the shells scattered like pearls in a necklace through the ribbons of tide-stranded seaweed. If we’re fortunate and the beach feels kind, we might find a lucky stone, with a hole somehow bored perfectly through it by mysterious means the sea won’t reveal. We can revisit simpler days and build sandcastles, digging trenches to corral the foaming waves into moats, watching as the edges of our handiwork crumbles at the swell of water, to subside and smooth, leaving no trace of ever having been. We can swim, face-down, watching tiny fish flickering between patches of seaweed – living, miniature forests in browns and khakis, with bubbles instead of birdsong, and the constant ebb and flow of surf moving them in time to the breathing of the ocean.
We can picnic under the baking sun, skin crisping with salt, and tangled hair whipping in the breeze as it flies upwards, giving lift to the sea-birds, which hang in the air like unfettered, beady-eyed kites watching to make their move, wheeling and diving for morsels.
We can lie on faded blankets, chins tucked on sand-crusted arms, setting the world gently to rights through the scent of sun-cream and every summer ever, until the words are all said, and there’s little to do except watch the colours in the sky paint the world in reds and oranges more vivid than neon, capping each wave with fluorescent glitter, until the idea of swimming in sunset seas becomes too delightful and we run and whoop and dive and splash, shouting for sheer delight, sending fountains of pink and orange water skywards, just to see the light reflected in a thousand diamond drops.
Gradually the sun’s bright disc slips inexorably over the edge of the world, leaving shadows and a chill in place of its warmth. The neon skies fade out to pastels and dove-greys, whilst in the deepening blue in the east, tiny sparks of cold light begin to make themselves known as the stars are revealed by nightfall. Behind us in the woods, a sudden, twilight cry raises goosebumps, and it’s time to bid the beach farewell.
Don’t worry, dear, for the adventure’s not over yet.
This way…this way…another path, sinewed with roots – don’t trip – they look almost alive and moving in the torchlight, don’t they?
Here – can you see the glow ahead? That’s where we’re going – the final piece of magic for our time of sanctuary in this place: treehouses, strung with fairy lights and packed to the walls with soft blankets, lanterns and pillows enough to cushion every weary inch. There will be lullabies sung by owls, laughter which sends small creatures scurrying back into the undergrowth, books on packed shelves to browse if we wish, and conversation which gets deeper and more disjointed as time slows down, loses all meaning and becomes irrelevant – the world shrinking to the size of the brightly-lit, cosy space we inhabit.
And finally sleep, nestled warmly in perfect contentment, with unseen foxes keeping vigil in the forest, and that deep, abiding peace which comes with getting away from it all. Perhaps we’ll dream of flying or the perfect Other. Maybe the stories which unfold in our subconscious will be infused with the magic of the afternoon; full of castles and shining skies and the sea captured in perpetual motion inside a shell. Or simply of morning, when we can wake to crisp, bright light, stretch luxuriously, and know that after coffee and fresh fruit, there lies the promise of another, perfect, sun-drenched day…
I hope you love it.
[Inspired by Mandi, who wanted someplace to run away to]