When in doubt, I try to learn from my toddler. He manages to live and breath a kind of freedom and embodiment that I spend more time thinking about than really being. Today, we walked to a local old growth forest we visit most weekends. It is a place that is slowly becoming very special to us. I knew today was different though, with the spring turning in the air and the sense that a portal was open for us because of it, but also that something in me was opening too. Coming back to life – setting intentions.
Walking into the woods, I expected to find something – an answer. A resolution maybe, to the months of winter – as well as my own inner winter – that felt dark and dense. Some kind of relief. We walked intuitively through the woods together at toddler pace, him leading me up and down paths and back again until we finally reached a place we both love – which we call the tree house. It is really an old, twisted tree that is only trunk now, which around its base has a beautifully and masterfully built den with fallen pine branches. It is almost tall enough for an adult to stand inside it, and plenty big enough for a two year old explorer.
We sat for a while in the tree house, having walked a long way up the hill. We ate an apple, spoke to a friendly passing man, and enjoyed the feeling of the soft dry earth beneath us. Yacoub was sat upon my lap, and I leant against the mighty tree at the centre of the “house”. Mostly in peace, we listened to some arguing squirrels, crows above the canopy and a few passing foot steps. Yacoub finished his snack and begun to dig his hands into the soft floor. Cupping gently, he let the pine needles and leaf mulch filter between his fingers. He did so quietly and in awe.
He slowly begun to let the forest floor bathe him. Each handful was gently scattered upon his knees, and he expanded towards me, covering my legs in a blanket of leaf mulch. It felt warm and encompassing. We sat there together for some time, each of us slowly being dug into the soil. We laughed and enjoyed ourselves. It was a kind of forest bathing I don’t remember ever experiencing, perhaps not since I was his own age. I started to run my fingers through the compost too, noticing its diverse textures, and collecting a few tiny pine cones from amongst it.
We eventually rose, shook ourselves off and continued on our walk. Yacoub was getting tired, so we walked together a while towards the sun in the west, before he came into my arms and we took the long road home. Somehow, in his messiness, his presence, and his playfulness, he provided the opening I was seeking – nothing forced, nothing contrived, just simple presence with the earth. We emerged into the afternoon sun refreshed.