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Return to Childhood

April 12, 2011

It’s odd how, since I’m living on my own, I find myself doing things I haven’t done for years, or at least very rarely. Reading more – and everywhere! -, cooking without a recipe, walking barefoot, gathering wild plants to eat, sitting on the floor… and most importantly, wandering the forest.

I didn’t have the time to go to the larger forest this weekend, so we made a trip up the hill to the little forest I used to play in as a kid. I hadn’t been there in about ten years. At the time we moved away from there, they had just started building houses in the places I called the Swampy Meadow and the Paranor (‘grassland’ in one of my made-up languages, because it reminded me of a place in that story), and I didn’t really want to see what they’d do to the forest.

Until now.

And while the Swampy Meadow is completely gone, and the Paranor partly taken over by houses, and the rest now a neat and tidy field instead of the wild meadow it used to be, the forest itself has changed little. If anything, it’s prettier than I remember, but then, it’s possible I just never went there this time of year. It was mostly summer weekends that I spent there (although I remember a few winter walks, too).

Walking up the hill between the fields, this is where we’re headed to – as you can tell by the houses behind it, it’s not a very big forest:

Looking down the hill, to farmhouses and orchards, to my home hidden behind the trees, to the mountains on the horizon:

Walking along the hilltop, looking down into the forest – oaks and wild cherries, in this part. Remembering how as a child, I ate wild cherries here. We had not one, but two cherry trees in our garden, with insane amounts of large, sweet cherries, but being fascinated with ‘survival’ stories, I wanted to try the wild ones. I’ll probably try them again this summer.

Finding wood anemones that are pink rather than the usual pure white:

Down into the hill into the forest itself, where a tiny stream trickles along, and little swamps and puddles hide among the trees, marked by the yellow flowers of the Marsh Marigolds:

Walking along the Back Path, behind the pond, past the cave:

Walking close enough to peer in and realizing that even if I’d not been such a sensible kid who knew not to enter caves that might, well, cave in, I couldn’t have entered anyway because it is full of water. I might have known that even as a kid, but it didn’t stop me from having fantasies about living in it, and it looks like children are still playing there – someone has erected a kind of ‘totem pole’ outside.

Looking at the wood sorrel growing in the gaps in the rocks and thinking that maybe this is why I like it so much, because it was always growing here in the forest of my childhood. And despite all the Oxalises I’ve grown – none is as pretty as the simple Oxalis acetosella

Walking around the pond, which isn’t looking very appealing, full of dead leaves, algae and duckweed – the duckweed is new, it definitely wasn’t there when we kept Indian Runner Ducks, and I went on a long quest to various ponds to find some duckweed because someone had told us it would be good for our ducklings.

Climbing the opposite slope, up into spruce forest that I never entered as a child. I wonder why – because the spruce forest looks so much darker and kind of sinister? Or because there were houses at the top of the slope, and being extremely shy, I didn’t go anywhere I might meet people?

Either way, I climbed it now, and the pond looks much nicer from a distance. My best friend immediately stated that this should be a proverb: ‘From up high, the pond looks clean.’

And even among the dark spruces, there are pretty, bright spring leaves:

There were also young blackberry leaves, which went into my gathering bag for my berry leaf herbal tea, and fat juicy chickweed that made a tasty ‘spinach’ for dinner.

Back down the hill and around the pond, past what I think is the prettiest part of the forest – periwinkle and wood anemones and some ‘silky’-looking grass:

And then, walking back up the hill, four roe deer running across the path, out into the field:

On these weekend walks and bike tours, I often find myself thinking of the time when the Carpenter Brother was an adorable little three-year-old who went around opening the kitchen cupboards and fanning in air. When we asked him what he was doing, he told us the dishes needed to be ‘lighted’ and ‘winded’. I think of this when I open all the windows and doors in the mornings, to let some fresh air into the Nettle Nest, and when I’m out and about myself, soaking up the sunshine with the wind in my hair and clothes – I think I need to be ‘lighted and winded’ myself now that winter is finally over!

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