Rich, black woodland soil.
Scent rising up from rain on wet leaves and earth. Breathe in deeply.
Lace-tracery of branches against the sky.
Silence; the soft pad of a beech nut.
Or terrible creakings and groanings, even screaming, of branches in fierce wind.
Beech leaves, still clinging on the trees, papery and ghostly in the low light.
Sounds of a woodpecker drumming and a stock dove echoing through the bare winter trees.
Leaf fall slowly decaying – oak, ash, beech, whitebeam, maple.
The woodlands are generous. Nature is generous. I love these woods around Sheepscombe – and especially in winter. I cannot say when my appreciation started for trees. As children we were pushed outdoors all year round so it is just normal to be out in nature in all weathers. It is just part of me.
It is in the last few years, though, that I have started making art in the woodland. I like these spots on the margin of the woods, where the path has a bend and I can see the shape of the trees. Sometimes I might work for a couple of hours on a mandala and the wind take it in a second. There is something important about releasing the art to nature’s decay, the walking away in the knowledge that it will soon be dismantled by rain, falling leaves, wind, footfall, scurrying creatures – deer, mice, foxes, rabbits, birds. The ephemeral nature of the art is a reminder of the transience and impermanence of all aspects of life; it says to not hold on so tight, to accept change and limitations and that rarely is anything perfect. It fixes me in this precious moment and to the earth, with bare hands now dirty (or clean!) from the woodland soil and old leaves. That the art is soon gone means it takes up no space in a world already so cluttered by us, but I imagine it somehow imprinting the air like whispered prayers imprinted over the centuries into the stone columns of a cathedral. I like that thought. That perhaps this leaf art adds some goodness to the atmosphere.
When I am done, I circle the mandala, turn away and walk on through the woods. And once again I am reconnected, my head is clear and I feel at peace.