1 Aug 2018

She walked slowly through this place her senses alive and attentive for every sound, every smell within this ancient place and its shadows drew her in deeper with every step. Her imagination delighted within her senses and where there were roots, moss and branches entwined she saw arms, hands and shrouded figures shepherding her, welcoming her, comforting her in this far off place.

Her senses, a compass and a map of the trails were all that she had as she entered that morning with Mount Fugi in the distance. She'd read so much about this place and had organised her trip so that it was the final place on her trip. This wonderful country, this place, its dark history steeped in Japanese mythology where the dead wander in peace within its solitude had long interested her and finally she understood why it was so special.

The trails she followed seemed ancient, carved through the undergrowth by thousands who'd walked before her, beneath the canopy. She walked slowly, stopping regularly to listen. A heavy silence greeted her and wrapped her warm in its embrace. The subtle and consistent sound of rain droplets falling on broadleaves had begun some time before and to her felt like a hand rocking a cradle, it was there protecting, within this place but so gentle it was like a whisper to her and unseen, leaving her to find her own path.

The stories, the secrets, the treasures, the joy and the deep and dark pain by each traveller who'd walked these trails where she now walked were in every footprint. They were within the leaves, twigs, branches, trunks of these majestic beings that governed this place.

The laughter and joy of a young couple in love, sharing their excitement, there hands entwined, their kisses shared, their bodies pressed hard against the trunk of a tree or the imprint of their love making within the small clearings of fern on the soft moss where they lay together.

The sadness, the tears, the unanswered questions whispered or screamed within this place by those journying in pain - searching for serenity and solitude to think, to hear their own thoughts and to leave once again feeling they could breath again.

She had journeyed West, her mind reeling and anxious about him, their future, what would she do and how could they live. So in love, she felt sufficated now, desperate to hold onto herself, a self she had fought so hard to find once upon a time and now being asked to share it to nurture something more.

She'd cried as she'd walked, the giant reds hearing her laments and sadness and their enormity had felt like the paternal hand she so missed in these years.

As she moved, each forest seemed more to her, to know her and throughout her journey the clarity she needed had come like the slow and calm silence she experienced when leaving her rental car at the entrance to a forrest and walking towards its embrace.

Her mind calmed, her body recovered and as she moved from place to place on her journey she became more and more aware of the road ahead for her. The changes forced upon, what was being ripped from her hands was to be respected and grieved for and the forrests had allowed that for her. Their darkness in early mornings or late in the evenings, the dark light and foreboding shadows mirrored how she had felt, grieving for what she was, what her life had been. But being here now, within the Sea of Trees on the far side of the world, watching growth all around her, the appearance of deer in the distance on the trail ahead in the mist, the movement of tiny squirrels racing through the undergrowth and up the trunk of a tree nearby her soul breathed life once more.

Her travels and search for solitude in the great forests of the world had brought a deep understanding that these ancient places, the sentient beings and their offspring that dwelled here underfoot, to hand and high above were entirely connected.

Echos of the voices of those she loved, present in her life still and those no longer around her were heard in every place she visited to. When she cried or called out, they were there, despite the physical reality that they weren't her consciousness reached and pleaded and called for help and they were there each time. He was there too. He heard her scream and cry, he saw her tears roll down her face. He felt her hand on his cheek as she walked reaching downwards and running her hands through the ferns on the side of a trail.

Their hands held together, wrapped in ferns she had brought home from her travels, barefoot in the forrest near their home, surrounded by those voices, those people closest, their handfasting, their promise to the ancients was heard and the forrests of the world swayed in peace.