I opened the back of my car and noticed a lot of leaves and as soon as I saw them, I realised how they had got there and noted they had been there for two days and I brushed them out. I had returned from a walk on my own this morning and was loading the back of the car with mosaic tiles I needed to take to Ramsgate for community workshops. Those leaves in the rear of my car is a scene that I can easily recall now. There is another scene in my mind’s eye and it is the scene which goes immediately before the leaves scene. It is of me carrying Fred to, and laying him down in the back of my car. The explanation for the leaves is that they were under Fred’s body when I picked him up and now that he has gone the leaves remained in the car.
Fred was a bright star, living a high-octane life with high risks at a high pace. These lives are short but have a huge impact on those they come into contact with. Because they shine so bright, they are shorter than most and a parallel life might be James Dean who died young at 24 in 1955. Fred was hit by a car and would be the equivalent of about 27 years old. St. Patrick’s Day would have been fitting as he was an Irish Terrier, but fate had him down for St. Andrews day instead! To me it was the day that West Blean and Thornden woods were not big enough for Fred’s desire for exploration. It was always a struggle to contain Fred’s appetite for mischief and adventure, yet still allow him liberty and self-management to be happy, fulfilled and content. I am released from that struggle now, but realise walking amongst the trees and natural surroundings will be a self-prescribed well-being potion, as opposed to the mandatory dose supplied by Fred’s binding forcefulness to explore our wild and natural environment together.
My walks have an element of Forest Bathing it is true, I have grown to need the whole woodland experience. The feeling of walking through the forest is very important. Not walking around it, looking at it from the fringes. Passing through different sections or characteristic passages of tree species combinations I find a very healthy experience even though this may be happening often on a subliminal level. I usually use these walks as a time for evaluation or reflection. I prepare my work and clarify my thinking about what might be required or modified, I analyse situations or conversations helping me to understand and plan next steps, this time is planning time, evaluation time, having ideas time, problem solving time and a creative time. It is part of my daily routine rain or shine and I have come to need the experience. We leave together just after it has become light, as soon as I can after 7am. The early morning sun has a tremendous effect on the woodland colours, as does the rain. Hundertwasser is one of my long-standing influences and he describes the rain making colours richer and stronger, this is undoubtedly true. Misty, rainy, sunny or cloudy the woods are always different every morning.
We are walking through one of my favourite sections of the woods this morning and I notice that the tallest trees in this section are pretty much bare, with few leaves remaining and I notice these are Oak Trees. There are many other trees whose leaves change colour in a much more attractive way. Oak leaves turn to an unremarkable brown but with the majority of them on the ground, it gives things a rich ground colour. Their black silhouetted shapes stand strongly against everything else. But the thing I had not noticed before was that Hazel tree leaves are still a strong yellowy green a very light colour against the browns/blacks of the oak trees. They still have their leaves and they form an under storey of bright green something like half the height of the oaks. It is an immersive colour experience made stronger by week sunshine. My phone can’t capture it today with photos always on the dark side and the greens not making their presence in the way I see it. I did try to draw it.
For Fred walks are adventures and he tries to get as much as he can out of them. Fred lives in the moment and he is constantly exploring, looking and following. Every minute is spent investigating something. Anything fury is very exciting with attention absolutely focused. So much so that he excludes all other influences, sometimes becoming fixated. This switch goes ‘on’ to the exclusion of everything else. Generally, he can turn the switch off after a few minutes but now and again it gets stuck on. Fred is always on the move covering ground left and right constantly searching. Now and again, he runs up to me exhausted and lays down in front of me panting, as if to say ‘I need to rest a bit I’ve over done it’. Fred’s walks are intense experiences full of action.
I saw a pheasant, a rabbit and a spotted woodpecker this morning and heard an owl this evening, as I have been up the woods twice today. That’s not unusual I also noticed in what seems to be only a couple of days, the majority of the leaves have been blown off the trees. There is a late autumn feel which has much less yellow and the tree trunks and branches are silhouetted against the sky.
This morning I cam across a woman who had lost her dog and she was understandably rather agitated, I can tell she was distracted and trying not to be overwhelmed with anxiety. I know I’ve been there and got the dog wont come back T. shirt. Her Beagle run off on the trail of something. This is what I get with Fred when the button stays on. We walked a some way and she told me all about the history of her dogs, I hope it helped her. I said I always wait in the area where I last saw or realised Fred had gone, because when he does realise the time and wants to come back, it seems to be where he last saw me is where he goes. I said walking off looking looking all over the place is often not the best strategy, even though it feels like your doing something. I said if I have done that in the past and walked randomly all over the woods shouting, I have generally found him back near the car, half an hour later. I explained if I found this dog could I put it on my lead and phone you. She said yes and gave me her number, she explained they had walked to the woods and would phone home to see if she had run home and that she would go back to place where they were separated. We said goodbye and I felt her anxiety. About ten minutes later she phoned me to say they were back together and that she had found her in the field where they had originally got separated. Happy days.
I had been listening to Loosing Eden by Lucy Jones on my head phones and was interrupted in the middle of a description of ‘Forest Bathing’ when I walked into the lost dog thing. Rather than go back into the book I thought I should perhaps keep an eye on my own dog who is a likely to forget the time while on the trail of a squirrel. So it is not untill now I have been able to research Forest Bathing an its benefits until now. See link
It turns out it is part of a national health programme in Japan! I think I forest bath on a subliminal level while on these dogs walks and it is why it has become so important to me.
This was always going to happen and it will happen more frequently now. It is a nudge closer on the way to fully accepting that things will never be the same. I dont know why I was miffed, I guess I am so used to walking where I want! On this evenings dog walk dusk was approaching and I could hear and see forest machinery working as I expected in that section of the woods. I was going to turn left a 100 yards or so before the machinery stacking a high and long pile of logs.
But here’s the thing; There was a high wire fence directly across my pathway blocking any hope of going that way. I was a little surprised and I realised this was the path that led to a wooden post I had carved six or seven years ago as a tribute or a marker for Cosmo who was my previous dog before Fred. I had carved it using a chestnut log and placed it in this section of the wood as we had had one or two ‘incidents’ together in this area. I look back at those incidents now and smile but they were probably worse than anything that Fred has done to me. The first was when I thought Cosmo had found a way into an enclosure with a huge wild boar inside and was hysterically barking at it. The wild boar enclosure was part of the ‘Wildwood Zoo’ which backs onto this corner of the woods and Cosmo had managed to get in and start a fight with this wild boar I could see him inside running about and barking at it. Perhaps one of my worst moments of dog ownership. However it turned out that Cosmo was in the adjacent enclosure, which luckily was empty and was barking at it through a wire fence. Brave as you like, the wild boar was never going to actually get him. I had to though. I found a hole under the wire fence where Cosmo had gone through. I was so relived when I called him and he came out without me having to enlarge the hole and wriggle under and break into the Zoo to get him out. The second incident might be a story for another time. I put Fred on the lead and walked towards the noisy forest machinery thinking I might never see ‘Cosmo’s Post’ ever again. I always used to pat it affectionately as if it was Cosmo and say ‘Hello Cos – good boy’. I had decorated this post with scenes of things that happened and flowers/leaves found in these woods as we walked in here most days like I do with Fred.
We walked past the logging machine, it was approaching dusk and I could not see the driver with its high lights above the cab glaring in my eyes like headlights on full beam. Some way further on the new wire fence stopped as it was not finished yet so I took the next path on the left into that section of the wood. After a while I turned right along a path I knew would bring me back onto the main central track through the wood called ‘New Road’ I wondered if it was actually a very old road. Anyway it happened again the path was suddenly blocked by another stretch of high wire fence. We had to follow the fence and eventually came out on the central track and all was well. This will only happen more frequently as the works progress. A clear reminder that these changes will impact my life significantly.
I think its Beech Trees that have this burnt orange glow that produces an immersive overall effect that is very powerful. I have been walking in the woods a lot recently with the colours getting richer by the day, where there are beech trees in combination with sweet chestnut and silver birch are my favorite sections of the woods at the moment. The floor is burnt orange which makes everything glow. I walk listing the names of oil paints in tubes in my mind in an attempt to mix them. Sinoper with cadmium yellow ? Light red and yellow ochre? Burnt umber. I never know if these will work I dont do enough painting anymore, Farrow and Ball or Valspar in B+Q probably these colours nailed.
I dont think I have seen a single acorn anywhere. Can that be true?
I hear birds while walking but rarely see them. I have heard black birds, and at dusk this evening I heard an owl which I have heard before. I think I can hear Great Tits but I’m not sure enough on bird songs. But I did defiantly see a Robin today. The birds I do see are always LBJ’s (an official technical term, little brown jobs) and I cant identify them, they are too fast, too small never landing and keeping still. So the birds remain a mystery as do the names for the colours.