Rapunzel’s forest tale: a story of healing

It has been a month ago that I wrote a blog. The last blog was about my grandmother’s death and how I found solace and inspiration through the willow in our garden: My grandmother was a willow woman. Currently I am still in Belgium. The weeks after my grandmother’s death were confusing. Last year, the first weeks of June were emotional, and again it was emotional. The COVID-19 pandemics does not help my insecurities about my academic career, my future, my family, my love life and other domains of my life. I was Rapunzel in the tower. Like many of us. And then… since midsummer, everything has been accelerating, as if everything went in a higher energy state. When I walked or was in my fruit tree garden the past two weeks, I discovered the first rowan berries, apples, blue berries, even first signs of acorns and walnuts. And the same for my academic career. After a long time of invisible/underground work, I start to harvest. In the same two weeks I have been witnessing all these first fruits of the season, my academic career produced three fruits that I need to apply for finishing my PhD and I finally could guide again forest baths.  Is it coincidence or not?

Outside the tower

Suddenly I feel again strong and motivated to work at my academic career. Clouds disappeared. I have again a vision of what I want, and what I don’t want. Harvesting season started only recently and in my country it is mostly until October. So I know I have to work hard in the next months to harvest more and prepare for the next “winter”. But the first fruits give always hope you will be fine for the next year.

I got reminded again that life is a cycle, with ups and downs, and that when you live closer with the more-than-human-world your life starts to sync again with it. Perhaps I imagine to much, but it gives me solace and faith, and that’s all what count when you are on a path of healing.

I am Rapunzel

Like Rapunzel in the Disney version, I became back a brunette after a long time being (fake) blond. Some weeks ago I joked to a friend and other fairytale connoisseur that Rapunzel is clearly the ‘fairytale’ for a blog about this period. The tower also protected her against the ‘corona reign’. I only miss a beardy guy with a cool nickname, my friend told me.

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Meeting white witches

It has been interesting to realise how many new elder woman I have been meeting, or with elder female acquaintances I am connecting since I am back from masculine Japan. Happily they are no evil witches like in Rapunzel’s story. I imagine they are all some sort of Celtic women who have to teach me something. Another reason why I am so absent on this website is because I have been in the forest again, often accompanied by an elder woman. I am helping one elder with a food forest project and figuring out the Flemish regulation about this. I visited another elder who has a forest house. I went foraging blue berries and other fruits with Forest2Plate and had great talks with another participant. I am spending more time with my mother and her mother, my last grandparent. Other elder women shared their wisdom and words of solace after my other grandmother died. I am also guiding forest baths again, mostly to elder women and listening to their stories. I know I am growing. I also learned why Flanders has lost the practice of foraging food in the wild. One century ago, Flanders was the richest nation in the world. Getting food from the wild was considered ‘savage’. In addition, Flanders became very densely populated, so to protect the few biodiverse places we have many regulations came that forbid us to gather food, or to even camp in the wild. There are pioneers who are trying to bring back the lost knowledge and practices to Flanders, or at least preserve it by learning as much as they can. There is hope.

Coping with loss

Last month I started to read also work by Joanna Macy, because some elder women told me she found a way how to cope with loss and other sadness you see when you engage with the environment. After I expressed my difficulties. When you are a forest therapy guide, the forest will give you what you need, but you also start to see more, sense more, know more about the pain of the forest. Joanna Macy explains also that you have different world views. I feel I am starting to have the world view of the world as self. That’s why it is no coincidence for me that my academic fruits and the forest fruits start to appear at the same time, after one year invisible work. I am leaving the tower and start to hope again.