I pass this time alone
Somewhere so unknown
It heals the soul”
February Stars – The Foo Fighters
As I stepped out of the car with Hiro on this February morning, the sound of the wind in Kilburn woods was immediately apparent. Even at 6.30 am, it feels like night. I like the start of a walk, the uncertainty of what will happen, what I’ll see. Even Hiro, unsure of where he is, not sure of this walk has a sense of anticipation around him.
The first thing I notice, the first thing I hear is the quiet. The overwhelming silence of the woods in Kilburn at this time is incredible. I hear the sound of my walking boots on gravelled path, and the wind high up through the trees. I strain to hear the sounds of animals and birds, but nothing. Once my eyes have adjusted to the dark, shapes begin to appear, to appear to loom out of the black. High above me, the trees take on the form of bony, skeletal fingers, tendrils stretching upwards. Within the thicket of trees, their trunks form ungodly shapes that the imagination can play with, as the wind creates whispers amidst the eeriness. The quiet is a perfect time to try and still the mind, slow down thoughts that permeate every other moment of the day. Without the trust of my eyes which are tricked in this light, all I have is my hearing and sense of smell. Not my strongest of senses, I can only smell what I take to be the damp of a woodland. Not a musty damp, but a fresh woody scent. I wonder what I would see if it was later, lighter. My hearing fails to inform me of what’s nearby, instead I rely on Hiro who when alerted to some invisible woodland sprite, darts off to the left or the right. It’s here I pause and call him quietly. There is a decision, when I call to him, albeit an unconscious decision to call in a half whisper. It feels right to use a low voice in a woodland. It’s important to not pollute it with noise.
As I keep walking, hands warmed by my Bodum cup of insulated coffee. The quiet allows me to reflect on my week, the busyness of it all, and then these thoughts are swallowed up by the gloom and I return my attention to the shapes as they begin to take form in the growing light as the transition to dawn begins. I can already sense that the morning is drifting in through the trees as somewhere beyond the valleyed woodland, the sun is starting to climb. The trees begin to look less eerie and now begin to take their true forms, the horizon of Sutton Banks imposing outline begins to appear in contrast to the lightened sky. Its at 7.14 when I hear the first chirrups of a bird, closely followed by the haunting call of an owl nearby in the gloom. Both startling and beautiful to hear the woods begin to come alive. From the first chirrup, it is only a minute or two before the Forrest has changed from silent to incessant calls and chirps and hoots. A transition from feeling utterley alone, to surrounded by life.As I come to the end of the thickest part of the Forrest and it is growing lighter, I come to a pat of land where I can see the North Yorkshire Woodland Trust has planted new trees, I read the place that informs me of the celebration of celebrating a hundred years of forestry, and marvel at the dedication of the people who maintain this beautiful wood. It’s at this point that Hiro, finds his inner puppy and begins his chaotic excited running around, stops, front paws low, waiting, and with a quiet “Raaaa” from me, begins his bull in a china shop charge around the wood, finding the muddy patches and pools of water which he laps from before rushing off as we reach a fork in the path. I’m tempted to just keep walking, see where the path takes me, but I know there things to do today, so I turn round and walk back. The difference this time as I walk back into the woods on this February morning, with a far muddier Hiro, is a stark contrast from the silent wood I entered, not 60 minutes ago. Now birds dart from tree to tree up above, little no description black bird flutter to the ground, then away, the mixture of calls and chatter from unidentifiable species to this untrained ear greet each other and bicker as I walk.
The Forrest, now clearly defined and alive as I pass silver birch, pine and beech. Trees fallen creating natural arches or nests for curtains of vines and benches are scattered through the wood, and momentarily, the white tail of a roe deer as it darts out of sight, and Hiro gives up the chase quickly and returns to me and to the path.
Then, as the car park looms, i’m thankful, that amidst this busyness , this day to day life, and if only for this time. I was able to lose myself for a moment.