So much that it rushed and curled under the bridge I passed over at lunchtime today, making that faintly indecent schloop noise of swollen water with current fingers weaving and plunging to outpace one another to the next set of rocks or obstinate river bank. Race over, it lazed contently basking in sunshine and the last gold of the end of autumn.
The ground not covered in path or road demurs to take on with any more water this month, it brooded soggily as I took my long shadowed self through the park beneath the trees. The sky was gloriously blue and the sun cheerfully promised all manner of better things from behind the naked treetops. These are good moments, of which I am extraordinarily fond.
Like a startlingly large number of people, I have some problems with depression, and they’ve been kicking my ass a lot this year. I am soggy with my own bad thoughts, I think that I would squelch unpleasantly on contact. While my world perspective has narrowed, in some ways quite alarmingly, I’m not so bad that it’s not triggering what I consider to be the silver lining of being depressive. I notice things, in startling detail, it’s like my brain has turned on a macro lens and wants to pay attention to everything. I suppose it might be like that situation where you’re caught in a room with strangers fighting so bitterly you start paying extreme attention to the house plant in the corner or supplying bright, cheerful comments to try to ease the tension. My thoughts are in a full on pitched battle – there are siege engines and everything – so yeah, some part of my brain is desperately trying to go “Oh look! fluffy bunnies!” I notice things when I’m very happy too, so sometimes I trick my brain into flipping into a better mode. So this is why I’m here.
Any time I have been unhappy I have gone to find a tree. I moved to the country from Dublin when I was 11 to my considerable joy, and the family gained an oak tree half way down the hedgerow between our long back garden and the field with two ringforts and yet more trees next door. When I am happy I find many trees and wind through them with Terry Pratchett’s quote “Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know, that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom” reminding me to properly look and hear, and smell and feel. Robert Macfarlane in The Old Ways has plenty to say about walking and the walker’s mental state, or about the tendency towards depression in long distance walkers. The Japanese have Shinrin-yoku or ‘Forest bathing’.
Spring 2018 absolutely exploded my tiny little brain, it would be difficult to describe just how happy I was as the winter released it’s grip and the season seemed to surge and unfurl just for kicks and gorgeousness, rioting in blossoms and larch needles alongside me. Summer was hot, oppressive and relentless, my brain parched and cracked. Autumn was glorious, I traipsed through woods discovering an explosion of fungi I had never quite noticed before, enjoyed the abundance of full fleshed fruit that I was surprised thrived despite the intensity of summer. There were even edible sized Spanish chestnuts this year.
I took pictures, they rotated on my work desktop to remind me of gorgeous things and fantastic days, both alone and in the very best of company. Unfortunately new group policy restricts my desktop background but it occurred to me that I can try to achieve something of the effect by posting here. The idea of this blog, then, is to post about small details, forest walks, amazing company, beautiful sights, interesting (to me at least) facts and just observations. While I have spoken today about mental health it’s probably not going to feature much, except in passing. I will likely post photos of individual things just so I can post the information I’ve found out about it. This will probably mean a flurry of posts about fungi for a while, because that’s what demanded my attention this year. It turns out some of them have amazing names, which is always something to recommend a new hobby.
So forest bathing in Ireland, trying to avoid the sogginess. Doesn’t sound too terrible, right?