The Swedish forest, so very different from our leathery blue grey bush here with its brash cacophony of cicadas, cockatoos and kookaburras. The Swedish forest is dark, soft and hushed. Tall spruce and pine stretch into the sky like ancient battlements… beech and birch leaves glow green and gold in the shadows, blueberry bushes droop with plump ripe fruit and soft moss muffles all footsteps.
Dark soft hushed, the forest of fairytales ….
It was just such a forest I found myself living on the edge of this year. The forest was just metres from the back door of the folk school where my new Swedish a husband and I lived. I wasn’t surprised when local news reported wolves in our area, as I fully expected to see little red riding hood skipping through the trees at any moment.
A 5km circular walking track wound its way around the forest from our door down past a lonely lake and back again. Some days I would walk the path, content to tred barefoot where countless others had gone before but sometimes I stood on the edge of that forest… and it called me to explore its mysterious dark depths. And so, like Little Red, I was lured from the well-worn path.
Bigger on the Inside
The path which circumnavigated the forest was only 5 kilometers long, so that meant the forest was… I don’t know, smallish? (I studied humanities not mathematics) And indeed some days it seemed very small. The forest called and I would step off the path onto the royal green carpet of moss before me. I would wade through the blueberries bushes into the dark cathedral of trees. Somedays, I could walk through the forest and be out the other side in just ten minutes but other days, I would wander over verdant hills & through shaded valleys, lost for hours. You see this forest was bigger on the inside.
I have always loved walking in nature, connecting with the trees and the elemental forces. However, in Sweden, walking in nature moved to a whole new level. I enrolled in my friend Caroline’s online course “Walking with Heart” and it focused on opening to childlike wonder, engaging the senses, and allowing gratitude to flow.
How do you open to childlike wonder? You experience everything as if for the first time, seeing it, smelling it feeling it, touching it appreciating it, talking to it and yes, listening for the replies. You explore everything through the rose tinted magnifying glasses of possibilities. It’s being mindful of the magic and the miracles in nature. And with this wonder, I experienced the forest through my heart.
One day I was following a trail of golden chanterelle mushrooms and they led me to a valley I had never seen before. With my golden treasure spilling from my arms I sat within a stone circle that unknown hands had formed. Tiny forest frogs no bigger than my thumbnail leapt for their lives as I, the giant walked through their Lilliput land.
Connecting heart to heart
Another day when the forest called I went looking for the stone circle again but instead found the ruins of an ancient building. I sat on the lichen decorated wall plucking ripe blueberries and popping them in my mouth. I closed my eyes and imagined who might the ancient builders been, Vikings perhaps? I sensed a presence, the ancient stonemason? I opened my eyes, a deer and her fawn stood before me, for a long moment her deep brown eyes looked into mine. And in that time, it felt we had connected heart to heart, and I was welcomed there.
Of course, there were days when I forgot the childlike wonder, and I walked through the forest like I was bustling down a city street. I would circumnavigate the forest and realised that I hadn’t seen a single tree. One evening, I’d been bulldozing through the forest, when I stopped and realised... I was laughing at myself when I saw a flash of light in a tree. Intrigued I wandered over and stood at the base of the tall pine. The tree showered me head to my feet in peace and from the earth joy snaked from my toes to my head. Then I heard grunting and snorting from the thicket in front, Wild Boar, more dangerous than wolves, so the Swedes say. Part of me screamed RUN! But the other part said Chill, its fine, you are welcome here. And I stood with the tree as two wild boar snuffled by.
I loved the generosity and bounty of the forest. To take a basket and gather berries, wild berries, rosehips and mushrooms was an absolute delight. The sitting and gathering invoked a sense of timelessness in me and awoke an inner ancient feminine flame. I began cooking and baking with a joy I have never experienced before or since. I baked bread, made rosehip soup and cooked blueberry jam & blueberry sauce, baked blueberry cakes and blueberry crumbles, all with the sense of wonder that the forest had freely gifted me all her bounty.
Early in September, the beeches leaves hung like golden hearts from the trees. It was the day after my mum’s birthday and two years since she died. She would have loved the forest and I wished that she could walk with me. I stood there in the dappled sunlight and shut my eyes. Instantly I was transported back to garden of my childhood under the massive eucalyptus that shaded the backyard, with the comforting sound of mum in the kitchen, mum was so near. When I opened my eyes, I felt her, right there beside me laughing.
Walking to Bliss
We wandered, whither the wind took us deeper into the forest. I told her all that had happened, about married life with my new Swedish husband, about the magical Swedish forest. And while we walked and laughed, I over-flowed with happiness, in a state of bliss. As we came to a rise in the forest, we stopped, I felt the invitation, the pull… here was a threshold. I felt the beckoning to step across, to lose myself. To lose myself… in oblivion? Oneness, nothingness or was it everythingness?
Perhaps I wasn’t ready to let go of my body, perhaps I wasn’t ready to let go of my identity. Perhaps I wanted to linger longer with mum. Perhaps it was an invitation to the great spiritual awakening. Perhaps it was a doorway to the elemental worlds. I don’t know for sure but I do know I spent the best day ever with my mum in that Swedish forest. And who knows, maybe one day, I will wander again whither the wind blows and that doorway will again open, and maybe, just maybe this time I’ll step through.