So far Daily Mirror predictions of extreme winter have not been fulfilled. We are limping towards the year end with relatively mild, almost anodyne conditions. We have given away Norway spruce tops to our schools and volunteers. We are felling them anyway to make way for the proposed wildflower meadow. We have started making decorations. We have even come up with a new use for burdock burrs. Cover them in felt and glitter and they become ‘burrbles’. Do I feel festive? Not really.. I suspect that my enforced period of inactivity has effectively disconnected me from the seasonal wheel. My tentative and often seated presence at Hallr Wood just hasn't been strong enough to enable me to feel engaged. This really interests me. I sense that for me, my strong sense of nature induced well being depended on a highly active involvement. Perhaps for some, a connection with nature needs to be practical to be truly powerful and beneficial? Personally, I need to move and harvest and dig- feel the earth, gather the wood, saw it, light the fire, feel part of it on an elemental and visceral level. It is the first year I haven't planted bulbs and trees and the lack has left me in limbo. I am not ready for the darkest night. I don’t feel entitled to the small anticipatory joy of waiting for the first snowdrop. I feel unanchored, like a sleepwalker, stumbling and full of drowsy thoughts in a seasonless tropical country. Is this what it is like for those who live in towns, maybe working through the day light in an office, largely unaffected by seasonal shifts? Is this my own version of nature deficit disorder?
On the upside, sitting or watching, I have had more opportunity to observe the children and also talk to them. In the past I have had to allocate specific times to observations and assessments, now it is happening constantly.
The children have mostly responded very positively to my inability to do practical tasks.They are keen to help and even keener to try out my crutches. A boy with ASD has done things he would have refused to do before, simply because I can’t. He has filled up the kettles, collected the wood and fetched things from the kitchen. We have talked a lot. He has tried to teach me Japanese. He knows an impressive amount about Japanese culture from computer games. Our relationship has become much stronger through this period.
We have also managed to finish off the kiln by installing a roof with posts decorated by our wonderful chain saw artist Andy. The young people love watching them at work. It is always a positive addition to the day.
Winter is naturally a time for reflection and planning and this was especially true for me this year.
Next week after ten weeks of being in plaster, my third cast will come off and I will be given a supportive boot to wear instead. I am going to learn to walk again. A friend has said that the best way to repair the neurological damage is to walk barefoot in sand. This makes perfect sense to me. In some cultures the ill are placed on the ground to be healed by the earth, clay is often applied as a poultice and even taken internally..If it stays mild I will be giving my feet opportunities to wriggle in the carpet of enormous leaves we've had this year. I will also demand a trip to the beach.
I hope I have learnt a lot from this enforced rest. I have had to perfect the art of surrendering to circumstances without being passive and defeatist. Easily the hardest thing has been asking for help, to accept graciously that I am totally dependent on others for almost everything I need.
Most importantly I have come to a better understanding of my own relationship with nature and how vital that is to my sense of balance and perspective. I am so thankful that I am lucky enough to work outside in the woods and to be a Forest School Practitioner. I am really looking forward to being a more mobile one.