Warm, dappled sunlight coasts across my face, as ripples spreading through a calm lake. Breathing deeply, every earthy scent of the woods slides mercifully into my perception. Ancient bark that has thrown the dice times beyond measure, yet still sits at the table. Seedlings, barely birthed yet brimming with grace and life, pushing through the damp soil. The food, filth and fervour of every woodland creature, each an odour, some scented flag to stake its claim in the wilderness. I could stand forever, let my feet bare root and simply drink the luster of the forest until the end of my days. Yet I take a step, then another. Fresh scents, sights, a delicate breeze toying with my skin. Drawn onwards I delve between the verdant growth.
There is a story hiding behind every tree, be it broken or standing tall, unbent. Under every rock, carried along in every stream or hanging precious within a raindrop. Different paths lead to different beings, those long known, a track well trodden and kept clear. Each with a completely different background. My closest friends, an endless open field, spotted with trees and hedged by brush. My family a dry meadow, leading down to a clear, beautiful coastline. Then, at the centre of it all, a grove woven with dreams and times shared by only one other. There the green is deepest, the water flows clear and the air is alive with creation. It is a vast forest, constantly changing around me.
It does not keep by itself. A mind will not stay happy, at least no mind that I have ever encountered, not in truth. Beings of change, even in rest, of stillness by choice, we move forward, we dream of the next corner. Day by day, memory by memory, we mark time and it marks us, highs and lows to embrace or despair. Time does not stall, not with every human hand planted firmly in the ground, nor with every voice crying out in fear. Urge it to quicken, it will place its heels firmly in the dirt. Will for delay, it will slip from beneath us. It is not to be controlled, control comes from what we choose within it.
Something is amiss. A dread chill crawls up my spine. As I slip past a tree, I can see a thin line, a smudged scar of soil, bounded on each side by the still green growth. Dark mushrooms sprout the length of it. I can’t look. Each one breaks the tranquil water of my thoughts. Shards of glass, icy fear. Edging closer to the tormented ground is like peering over the edge of a chasm, where there is no end to be found and the abyss reaches up for you. Doubt deadens my every movement as I twist my face away. My eyes find the tree I passed, aching to dance with the sunlight on green again. There are thorns. Crooked, hooked, barbed in defiance of any touch less than full-throated fury. The back of the tree is wreathed in them.
I am the light in the forest. Where I am, all I can see is touched by my thoughts. Given attention, consideration, changed and grown. But trees cast shadows, even the meekest rising seedling holds a blackness behind it. All minds are limited and thoughts occupy them, meaning others will fall in their shadow. The greater or more important the idea, dream or thought, the longer and deeper the shadow behind it. In these shadows are found feelings of doubt, fear, desperation. Ground previously fertile and established, old thoughts, friends, times, fall into neglect. Be it the sharp crumble of abject fear, or the creeping worry and stress of stagnation, these shadows will threaten eventually spread.
The forest needs to be walked, every part of the mind needs time, attention, thought. Different parts, different people will vary hugely in this. Each will also often lend to another, reflecting light, shedding some new truth or branching idea. Nothing is gained from closing the mind, from holding to one viewpoint, one perspective, one set of ideas. There are those who would call it strength, or purity, even discipline. None of those things hold true in my eyes. A mind will waste away without movement, any strength long lost, the man who stands still changes nothing. Purity is nothing to be celebrated, clap the one who holds their breath the longest, but don’t forbid them breathe. The discipline to stay curious and moving in the face of fear is the greatest there is.
Nobody is infinite, there is only so much time, and only so much effort that can be made in the mind. Resource spent on one part can not be spent again elsewhere. Too many paths to walk will end in either some falling into neglect, or all being rushed through. Spreading the self so thin that all that you can ever hope for is to maintain what you have is a cruel prison in itself. It is always better to let go, to hold something back for yourself, you can never know what you might need to spend it on. Too many wondrous trails lie unwalked for the sake of one who could not let go. Know the forest, every part of it, explore, see the change and be immersed.
Stumbling, I look down to see a gnarled root breaking the surface. I used to know this place, quiet and closed yet with views of mountains beyond. The path is completely grown over, thickets and even thorns plain to see, creeping outward into the forest. It can’t be walked any more, not by these feet. The thorns are facing me and I don’t have enough to throw myself at them again. Somewhere beyond is a being I knew, I hear of their plight but I am not moved. They threw the seeds of these thorns, they dirtied and disturbed the land. Cold wind stirs the leaves about me. Restless, I leave. This place is no longer mine to walk and there are places that I would see above all others. Blooms afresh on the fields of faithful friends and a singular grove that holds within it adventure beyond compare.