‘We are tired of the old ways. The loudness, stress and exhaustion. We crave quiet, depth and richness. It is time to reconnect with our earth. Our home. It is time for observation and learning, understanding and healing. It is time to feel rooted again.’
This week, I joined the rooted adventure with Agnes Becker, we are stardust. These words were the call I responded to. In recent months and years, I’ve increasingly begun to notice and explore my connection with nature. Last year, I reflected on the magic of walking, the songs and activities of birds are of endless fascination to me, and trees are the living beings I love to spend my time with. All of this love is inseparable from my childhood where we spent much of our time outdoors and my parents’ knowledge and love of the creatures and beings of our natural world has undoubtedly influenced me.
This morning, I ventured to some local woodland as part of the first week of our adventure. At the top of the first chapter of our guidebook, Agnes had shared the quote, “a forest is much more than what you see” – Suzanne Simard, Ecologist. This week’s activities encouraged us to experience the depth of our surroundings by engaging deeply with all of our senses. Any moment I’m encouraged to be more mindful is a valued one since my default mode is rushing from one productive activity to the next. Discovering moments of ‘unrushed ease’, I’ve discovered, isn’t a state that arrives once I’ve ‘earned’ it but rather, something I can nurture for myself whenever I need or wish to.
As I attempted the ‘soft fascination’ exercise from Ruth Allen’s book Grounded, I realised how challenging I find it to take in my surroundings without focusing too much on any one detail. As I persevered with the exercise and tuned into the woodland, I felt the residue of exhaustion and tension from my week gradually beginning to seep from my limbs. I also noticed thoughts of productivity not far from my mind, wondering how I might document the moment, write, photograph, collect leaves. It took a great deal of energy to instead focus on each of my senses in turn.
From my clearing, I could see the woodland around me in layer upon layer of leaves and trees, trunks and stumps across the undulating land and sparse scattering of autumn leaves. A squirrel scurried up a tree and from the corner of my eye, I saw a tiny insect crawl towards me along the trunk on which I sat. I could feel the bark below me, smooth from human touch changing to rough and flaky as I shifted my hand further away. I felt the dryness of the soil and the crunch of leaves below my feet. The sound of birds played as a constant to the occasional drops of twigs and leaves. As human-created noise echoed in the distance, their song seemed to grow louder in response, shielding the gentle canopy from the external din.
It takes some time for the fear inside to subside; and for the calm of being alone with just the trees to rise.
We had the choice of collecting some autumn leaves, and after learning to paint these earlier on in the week, I was drawn to collect a few. The leaves I collected were all in different colours though were very similar in shape. Two were from an oak tree and I used the Seek app to identify the others and it turns out they were Beech.
The rooted adventure is to be a journey into connection through spending time outdoors, with fellow adventurers and in creativity. It will also be an adventure in learning with regular prompts and input about the science of nature that will enrich our experience. This week, we were invited to learn more about the leaves we’d collected to see what we might discover.
Knowing very little about the Beech tree, this is where I chose to begin my learning.
Landing at first on the Woodland Trust, I was struck by this description and the experience I’d had under the canopy:
‘Monumental, majestic, home to rare wildlife. Beech is an enchanting species and known as the queen of British trees. To wander beneath the leafy canopy, its cathedral-like branches spreading upwards, is an awe-inspiring experience.’
To know I’d spent an hour with a queen and the ‘mother of the woods’ made my Saturday saunter even more special. Learning more about their leaves, I discovered that these trees generally hold on to their leaves throughout winter, a trait known as marcescence. I also learned that the edge of a beech leaf has hairs. As I inspected the leaves I’d carried home, I noticed these tiny white hairs around their edge. Searching has been fruitless so far about their purpose so I’m left with further avenues for learning.
I then delved into the folklore and more magical associations with Beech trees.
Wisdom was a word I began to encounter frequently on my searching. I learned that the Anglo-Saxon word for beech was ‘bok’, which is the root word of the modern English ‘book’ as thin slices of beech were used for writing before being bound together to create a book. As a lover of writing, reading and knowledge, folklore suggesting that ‘the beech tree reminds us of the importance of learning and of the need to preserve our knowledge in writing for the benefit of generations to come’ was an association I was drawn to. Learning more about the wisdom of beech trees and I learned about how they were used by Native Americans to communicate using arborglyphs, in some cases using the markings to represent their reverence for the sun.
So what other gifts and insight might spending time with Beech trees grant the adventurer?
The beech is though to grant prosperity as well as wisdom, and perhaps even ‘wishes to those who are aware of her presence.’ ‘She can help you let go of rigid ideas and move forward in faith and openness.’ ‘If you feel that you are fettered by old ideas and habits and cannot see a way forward, relax in the presence of beech trees’ and the way ahead will be revealed. Beech will also foster a true connection with the past, which means learning from it and retaining what is useful, without feeling confined.’ ‘In aromatherapy, the essence of beech helps to boost confidence and hope.’ Thought to be one of the true holy trees in the world, its branches may offer protection to a lost traveller seeking shelter. ‘Slivers of beech wood and leaves were once carried as talismans to bring good luck and increase creative energy.’
This week is the very beginning of this six week adventure and I’ve already learned that gifting myself time outdoors is exactly what I needed. Through beginning my nature journaling over the last week, I’ve discovered I can be creative in unexpected ways and I look forward to what more I’ll discover and create along the way. From what I’ve now learned about Beech trees, I hope to spend more time in her majestic presence.
When I am outdoors with nature, I feel at home; reunited with myself and free to breathe into the powerful depths of my soul.
I gift myself time to go outside.
When I explore and experiment, I feel joyful ease at the chance to play without the pressure of productivity.
I gift myself time to discover, create and share. My nature journal is he precious chronicle of my adventures, and I commit to documenting my journey.
I wish to feel calm, nourished, creative and powerful.