Two or three times a day I walk the same path through the forest with dog Meg at my side, or maybe she will be trotting inquisitively ahead, or behind glued to my heels from fear of a distant gunshot or woodpecker. It occurs to me that we each get different perceptions from this pleasant time together. The damp forest smells are particularly potent this Spring, I have a keen sense of smell and as I walk the wooded path the pure piggy odour of wild boar wafts into my nostrils, then further on I inhale the pungent cloying smell of fox ; later on a deer has sprayed and the strong musky scent is unmistakeable; peeking whiffily through these nasal sensations are the scents of fungi, rotting leaves , of decaying fallen tree, with the occasional faint fresh puff of primrose to lighten the orchestral bass notes of fragrance. I expect Meg to be excited by this multi-scented panorama but she appears to saunter past them, and merely sniffs at a single blade of grass in a spot where I can smell nothing! Maybe the strong odours are too “loud” for her scent spectrum?
So…walking this path as I have for the last 26 years or so, some trees have become familiar to me, I notice their trunks as they thicken with age, and that branches have died off and crashed down to the leafy floor, smashing into tiny fragments. I see hollows where woodpeckers have made their homes, sculpting imaginary facial expressions: eyes , noses, mouths expressing startled looks of horror; or some, skeletal-like, look weirdly poised ready to sprint off to do mischief once the night descends. I see the once-green saplings become the strong upright forest soldiers of maples, chestnuts, oaks and pines. These woods have grown and matured before my very eyes.
A face in the golden evening sun:
There is one particular tree of huge stature, an old chestnut tree, immense and many limbed, perhaps part of an ancient hedge in its youth, but due to man’s neglect now a hideously deformed mass of thrusting limbs. When the wind stirs you can hear the deep throaty staccato, an eery haunting music as one branch grinds against another, it’s compels me to listen and it always stops me in my tracks, I can’t help but contemplate it’s sapient presence, despite it being magnificently grotesque.
The old Bassoon tree, as I call it:
One heavy side branch has a deep hollow where I once caught sight of a pair of shy pine martens, I think they have set up home there because the surface around the entrance is worn smooth by their scrambling feet.
Another time at dusk when the wind was beginning to swell as I entered the woods, I was startled by my neighbour running towards me utterly terrified by the deep bass sounds issuing from this tree, she was convinced there was a wild boar grunting and rooting behind her, they can be dangerous creatures so she had quickly turned tail, racing away as fast as she could; I instantly recognised the sound but couldn’t convince her it was the old Bassoon Tree mournfully lamenting its youth!
I know the feeling of how one’s body let’s one down!