I came to hidden springs and ponds. Reading this quote from Norwegian poet Johan Sebastian Welhaven (1807 – 1873) gives me goosebumps. I came across Welhaven only recently through Mikkjel Fønhus, a renowned writer from Sør-Aurdal in Norway. Fønhus` passion for the wilderness and animals made him become a strong advocate for preserving nature. Born in 1894, he lived and wandered in the Vassfaret mountains throughout his whole life. Many of his books are inspired by scenery there and by his encounters with animals and wild life. Having settled at the doorstep to Vassfaret myself, I started reading Fønus` descriptions of the fascinating land that I call home now. I share his concern about keeping our nature alive and our planet healthy.
Fønhus warned in a radio broadcast in May 1937 about the dangers of technology and highlighted how crucial it is to not lose connection to nature:
“This mentality is, at least in part, a manifestation of the mechanized age in which we live. It becomes steel cold calculation, it becomes math! Man himself becomes a kind of machine. We mechanize nature. We build motorways in lovely, untouched woods and mountains. We quickly and surely kill some of the best our country has, namely the wild nature.
We can’t afford to lose nature romance. We can afford this less than ever before because the machines are making us poor. We cannot afford to lose what Welhaven felt when he wrote these beautiful lines: ‘I came to hidden springs and ponds where the moose quenches its thirst. The bird`s song was heard only distantly like a hum between the sigh of the wind.”
(Translation of excerpt from the book “Mikkjel – far min” av Gudbjørg Fønhus Stensrud, http://www.mikkjelfonhus.no; photo of Mikkjel Fønhus below from http://www.digitaltmuseum.no)
What Mikkjel Fønhus expressed more than 80 years ago rings very familiar in our ears in the year 2020. The mechanisation and the exploitation that comes with it has accelerated in a life-threatening speed. Climate crisis, deforestation, viruses and a harmful new internet technology are just some aspects to the crime that humanity is inflicting on life on this earth. A situation where we have rendered ourselves to slaves of the machines and money power. We lost our innate wisdom of how to live in tune with Nature. We are not born machines or slaves. It is possible to find back to peace and balance and heal our planet.
It is spring. The first buds are opening. Are you waking up, too?
If you have walked away far from your essence, it is not an easy thing to recognize the connection with nature that we humans are actually born with. It is hard to admit first to oneself and then to others that one has lost this connection. But in the first place…
if you have forgot something, how can you know?
In that period of time when forgetting is happening, one is unconscious about forgetting. You don’t know that you have forgotten. It is only after – when some kind of memory, some kind of consciousness is coming through – that you realize that there is something that you have forgotten. Sometimes it can not even be articulated clearly, it is just a nagging feeling inside. An uneasiness. A long process for most will start and lead you through ups and downs while searching. Trying to remember, trying to wake up, to find that which has long since been lost — it eludes easily through your fingers like a fish. However, sometimes you suddenly come to hidden springs and ponds. Places to nourish your soul, places that make remembering a little bit easier. Places to open up a little more. Slowly but inevitably, like the buds in the spring sun.
This is at least my experience. Yes, I liked to be in nature to a certain degree, but I was not the very outdoorsy type. Hiking, skiing, swimming, jogging, climbing, inline skating, all kinds of sporty activities I did, I tried for the fun of it. Not to compete in any kind. To get the physical exercise and fresh air that we are told is healthy. The downside of it all was that my body is not made for good performance in sports. I lagged behind, I was the slow one, the clumsy one, in the group. Trying to push myself harder, and trying to push these feelings of inferiority away, can work only for a while. The underlying disappointment comes back. Spending some lazy hours outside instead without the pressure, is nice for a while but then I needed distraction: reading a book, learning something, writing, doing crosswords, engaging in conversations or similar. Very subtle I felt I would just love to sit and be. Do nothing but breathe. I couldn’t give myself permission to it. So even if I did just sit and do nothing, it didn’t make me happy or content. Sometimes I visited a tree when I was in the mood for it. It did not last for long. I was restless.
I didn’t want by-passers to detect that I was doing nothing but only leaning against a tree.
I feared they would make comments or smirk. So I kept myself busy with whatever was available, usually my phone. I could just not allow myself to be – I dreaded to be called not only slow, but lazy, inefficient, wasting time for nothing. Mostly by my own inner voice. The programme was running full on.
A new world opened up for me when I discovered the outdoor life via camping. While travelling through Scandinavia in a camper van for 5 months, I learned new skills and found it more and more freeing to be outside. Back in work life, I struggled to find a balance. I missed nature and free life so much. Now I remembered that there was something that I had forgotten. The old life and me, we had difficulties with each other. I ran into obstacles and hardships wherever I turned.
In my sorrow and grief I had no other place to go, no other person to turn to, than the forest.
For months and months I wandered and sought shelter amongst the trees. Exploring my surroundings without a plan, without orientation. Just letting my feet guide me wherever they wanted. I came to hidden springs and ponds. I could just sit somewhere, without getting bored. It was almost contentment I felt. Even joy. Little soothing moments that I would take back with me into the daily routines. Indulging in the beauty of a raindrop. Taking in the smell of the earth. Watching some animals doing their stuff.
Now I had come to the point to allow myself to be “lazy”, be “weak”, “insecure”, “sad” – at least in front of myself, in the embrace of the forest.
My inner censoring voice was too exhausted to protest. I could not face the outside world with this yet, but Nature had finally reached out to me again. I remembered what it was that I had forgotten. Memories from my childhood flooded my heart.
Me holding a heart in my hands. A heart that had stopped beating not long ago. My frozen hands absorbing the left-over warmth, feeling the liquid dripping from my fingers. Being initiated into respect and awe for life. I understood what gratitude is in a raw and simple form. Carrying the smell and the red marks on my palms with the innocent pride of child.
Hours and hours of walking through high grass. Scanning every square meter in the hope of finding the young ones. All of them. Rescuing them before the big merciless machines arrive. A task dedicated to Nature, an effort to help out where balance was lost. The mothers are calling from the edge of the forest. Not every call was answered.
The wonder of transformation in a close-up. A black little dot, swimming forward with only one tail. No chance to survive outside the water. Yet, the little dot gives up everything, tail and all. Leaves the element where it was born into, to continue to live on land, with four legs and a lung. The physical shape has undergone a tremendous change, the breath inside is still the same. There is no other option than to surrender to transformation. The tadpole cannot decide to stay a tadpole. It will inevitably turn into a frog.
Fast forward to 2020. I changed the element I am in. I moved to Norway a few years ago.
Nature time has become an integral part of my life. The purity and vastness and intensity that I experience here in the Northern wilderness nourishes my soul. The old programme lost its momentum. It will after a while stop by itself. Life has presented me with gifts and blessings along the way for which I feel gratitude every day. The practice of Forest Therapy was literally put at my front porch, deepening and widening the connection with nature that had already started to grow. I could not help but go into this journey, embody it to the degree I am able to, feeling again and again what it is like to be a Forest Therapy Guide. Being gentle with myself. Being receptive for the support that Nature offers. Being with the flow, showing up for life. Being courageous. A movement of going inwards and back to the essence of my heart and expanding outwards at the same time. Never knowing what the new shape looks like, but trusting that the transformation is happening. Being with the weirdness of being the same, yet not the same.
The frog returns during lunch. A movement in the grass. Birds are rejoicing in the spring vibes. The sun and the blue sky are celebrating their warm comeback. With the trees cheering them on, putting all efforts into their first saplings. It is this moment when you are immersed in Nature, when you eat your packed lunch, and it tastes a million times better than usual. Your senses nothing but a fluid energy with the world. Once again, I came to hidden springs and ponds. And then there is a shadow next to us, it disappears faster than my eye can catch it. Only after a while the synapses wire the information correctly and I realise it is a frog hopping by. Truly a tiring endeavour among these dry blueberry bushes. The instincts do their job and he is headed towards the lake. His only miscalculation is that the lake has not opened for the season yet. It has a solid cover of snow and slush on top of the ice. He is determined in his path though. Hopping further and further out onto the ice. Desperate little black dot on the open white surface. Your desire to be an early bird at the lake might make you an easy lunch for a hungry bird, little friend!
In every struggle for life, at every edge between life and death, there is something else showing up. Something else taking over. You may call it whatever you like. In this case it was a miracle of trust, the miracle of conversing with the more than human world. Guardian angels are waiting at the shore of the lake, breaking through the ice, sending messages from a loving heart. And the frog turns around. Hopping and crawling towards an unknown gigantic being that usually would present a huge threat to you. Overcoming your fear you approach us humans. You stop and rest at our feet. Exhausted. Your skin exposed to the sun, your body frozen by the ice. You cope with the discomfort, the disorientation, you let yourself be hold in the hands of something way bigger than you. And the result is rescue.
With an energetic leap you continue your life in a beautiful creek. Maybe you discover the swamps nearby. Maybe you sit somewhere, forgetting that you came to frozen lake today, forgetting that you almost died, forgetting that you were rescued. Most certainly you sit somewhere being just the precious little frog that you are.
Text and Photos: Rachana Cornelia Brand
Rachana Cornelia Brand is a dedicated forest therapy guide with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) and based in the remote valley of Hedalen in Norway. She is founder of WoodWolfWalks where she offers not only forest therapy walks but facilitates also monthly Nature Connection groups and gives Forest Whispering sessions. All her services can also be joined online, either in English, Norwegian or German. She strives to help people have a deeper connection with Nature as she found that to be the most healing approach for us and for our planet.
Rachana was born in Germany and moved to Norway in 2016. She has a background in educational management and tourism and is also a yoga teacher. In Norway she quickly came into contact with Dharma Mountain in Hedalen, a meditation and freedom resort at the foothills of Vassfaret. She fell in love with that place that vibrates beauty and pure silence. Eventually she moved to Hedalen and works as of today for both Dharma Mountain and for Fosstopp (tree top cabins in Hedalen) and is offering Forest Therapy walks. She enjoys a life so close to nature.
In her free time she loves to write and posts her pieces under the alias WoodWolfWriting. When Ms Wood asked her to be a guest contributor, she accepted with great pleasure and gratitude. What could be a better way than to help share the tales of the woods with a growing audience? And apparently also tales of frogs to which both Ms Wood and WoodWolfWriting seem to have a special connection. 6 weeks ago, Ms Wood wrote Becoming the Frog – retelling my woodwide story of the past 6 months at the end of her training to become a certified forest therapy guide.
Follow Rachana on facebook/instagram @woodwolfwalks and @woodwolfwriting and visit her website for more details about her services: www.woodwolfwalks.com