Once upon a time, not so long ago, a younger me went walking through the forests of the village where I lived before. It was a beautiful spring afternoon, the air full of birdsong and heady perfume of hawthorn bursting in the hedgerows. My dog went scampering in front, her tail high up as she chased butterflies in front of her. It is a glorious time, spring, when nature seems to uncoil from a long sleep. Specially in the north, when winter is always longer than one remembers. This day that I had carved out free from work, free from cooking even was mine, and mine alone. The children would go to friends after school and I would pick them up in the evening. All that remained for me to do is to take my dog and walk to the forest.
This bit of the forest was special, and I knew the paths that wound through it. And whenever the paths stopped, I knew when to cut through to join another path I knew was there beyond the trees, I stooped below the bare branches of young oaks and beech to walk over fallen leaves. My dog followed me, happy to jump over the brown leaves that crunched so deliciously under my feet and her paws, like breaking cornflakes in the palms. Here and there, we came across vast clearings where the tall trees, all swaying with fresh green, stood proud in circles. And in the middle, the sunrays fell on white wood anemone floating above mounds of dark green leaves. And right below the trees, bold and beefy leaves of foxgloves spread themselves, all poised to send spires of purple flowers shooting to the sky. When we met a path, we headed towards the valley, where the little stream ran at its bottom. And here, sunken in heavy mud, made even wetter and heavier from the molten snow lay a sea of lesser celandine, their dainty heads rocking above the delicate pale green stems. These yellow stars of the woodland floor caught the sunlight and reflected it all along the banks of the stream. We walked to the stream cutting through the wet low grass and my dog jumped into the water, skipping over slippery rocks and slurping up the cold water as she went along. I picked up a stick and threw it for her to catch but the scents in the nooks were far more appealing. As we climbed the bank on the other side, we came to the spot of the wild garlic. One smelled them first before one saw them. The long dark green leaves were just poking their heads above the brown undergrowth. But this time, I did not have a bag to gather so we walked on across the hillside, sowing seeds of wood flowers with my boots.
At the top of the small hill, a windy path led to the tiny building that managed the water supplies that the mountains provided. On this glorious afternoon, when the sun sang with the birds, and the blue sky topped the new green canopy of trees, everything was perfect. Today, I think back, not only to that day but to so many others, when the forest was always perfect. Nothing was out of place or out of tune. Perfection was merely the state of complete harmony, and I was privileged to have been a part of it. Even as the seasons change from spring to summer to autumn to winter, and back to spring, there is harmony at all times. Today, I know that as the seeds germinate and grow into beautiful blossoms and die back, in each moment that passes, they pass through aeons of endless perfection, in union with themselves and existence.
It takes so little from us to also experience this sense of unity, vibrant and calm at the same time. And also, so little to let ourselves get distracted by details that do not serve us. As we enter week 7 of our confinement, let us remind ourselves of the power of observance. To truly notice nature in its glory, to see the harmony in existence. I think of that afternoon in my beloved forest not only to reminisce about a wonderful time but to remind myself of the quality of union that exists around me. Not only was it there in the past, but it is here, with us, always, waiting for us to notice.
Sit and watch. Or get up and dance. It does not matter. There is always joy. In life, there is always joy.