If Dendrophobia is the fear of trees and Nyctohylophobia the fear of wooded areas at night it might be supposed that Dendrophilia and Nyctohylophilia are the love of trees and the love of forests at night respectively. My favourite time of the day is evening, heading for twilight. There is that sense of the world gathering the land up around itself, becoming truly real. During the day the mundane life of cars and people seems to flatten everything, there is a sameness to the urgency to get places and do thing packed into boxes of daylight – bright or grey – uniform in light or texture. We are distracted by work or travel, so these unreal boxes are like frozen moments in time, the last glimpse through a window maybe – and in our minds we can ignore any disturbance, any trespass of wind or rain, except as brief glimpses in our pauses throughout our day. Maybe being free from work, meal preparation and all the habits of the everyday is why the evening strikes me so? Light slants into corridors and shadows into portals, silver mists exhale and pool, shimmering low over the earth, edges blur, lines dissolve. Sight’s dominion fades, air becomes motion and speed, your senses range out of body, pricked to the tiniest tussle in the suddenly sussarant undergrowth, tiny hairs electrify, and raw blotches of musk or streaks of amomnia colour the landscape as clearly as if they were drawn and hanging in midair along the path.
On a midsummer evening one might walk a gravel path walked many times before unheeded. In the gathering gloom the path narrows and takes on that grey sheen not unlike the track of pencil mark on paper. To the left fields stretch, lakes of low mist, while to the right the forest, a whole new world of small noises and life. I have walked in Charleville many times now and would have been quite certain there were no deer. What, then, are the 3? 4? shapes that have emerged and dashed far ahead and into the field? Their bodies have no full shape, just a sense of silksheen, shadowdappled and pale. Veering into the woods, picking out the moontrack on the path I realise just how much the forest has swollen into its true life. The paths that I imagined in the day were made by human feet now switch and amble through the undergrowth, trafficked by much shorter, questing creatures. The birds are quiet, only an aggrieved squawk protesting an unexpected but soon sorted hitch briefly betray their existence. The air in the fading light instead raced with the flit and clicking squeak of bats. The daytime undertow of forest noise amplifies into rustles and snaps, snuffles, dashes, scratches, scrapes as animals on their nightly rounds skirt around the intruding humans and their noisy ways.
Above the occasional star adorns the branches like jewels, dotted amoung the dark leaves. The trees, in their pools of shadow, breathe their slow, long euphonies, while in the distance the town drones a low electric hum, peppered with shots of suggestions, the notion of accelerating car, shouting voice or disturbed alarm. Gathered in the ponderous thoughts of oaks and yews in their vigil space, time stretches back and forth between memories and imaginings, and the world beyond anything I can ever truly know.
Picking the path back trips pre-programmed routines, now night accustomed eyes follow their new rules, and feet dutifully step where they’re instructed. The verges seem caught, a moment frozen in large flowered silence, leeched of colour but washed instead with scent. Adventure in the forest done, an oak at forest edge beckons, replete, assured and genial. A gloriously ancient entity, leaning back to welcome company who might like to stop and sit, to share the evening air and to appreciate the forest, lovely, dark and deep.