celebrating and creating our own LGBTQ+ history in honour of Sheila McWattie

day eight

A VISION IN THE WOODS

I won’t ever smile again. I’ll never know joy as we used to know it. How it used to be. That knowing look, that tacit wink and then our heads thrown back roaring with laughter at our shared moment of observational humour. The madness of that laughter which bubbled up slowly and then consumed us, turning us into helpless crumpled, floppy beings, gasping for breath, snotty, teary and snorting between each laughter-convulsion that repeatedly burst from us ever stronger and growing louder and louder until both exhausted, breathless and lacking oxygen, we could laugh no more in complete self abandonment. That’s when we reached out in blissful burnout and held each other in the sheer joy of being alive and in sharing our humorous moment together.

I will just have to pretend. If someone says something “funny”, I’ll have to laugh falsely and fervently hope they believed in my “amusement”. I WILL go on for her because I promised her I would. This is the ONLY reason. I so nearly gave in to my desire to join her in the cold, cold  earth. I really don’t want to wait here and go on and pretend that I “feel” anything because I don’t feel anything, I am numb. I am sinking into a deep, dark abyss.

So I’ve seen my G.P. following pressure from my friends. My G.P. referred me to a bereavement counsellor. It’s week 6 and I still feel numb. Marion, my counsellor, asks what I like to do? I stare at her blankly.
“What do you mean?” I ask. “Well, what activities have you really enjoyed doing in your leisure time in the past”? She asked. After an agonising period of very long, strained silence, I replied, that I liked walking, particularly in woodland. “Well, find some lovely woods and go for a walk and take in your surroundings and fill your senses with the sounds of the birds and wildlife and twigs and branches and the leaves crunching under your feet and come back next week and tell me what you FELT when you were walking in the woods. I am very sure that you will feel something”.
I nodded glumly, I agreed that I’d find some woods and walk there, just to get out of the room and to escape from her making me think. – For I don’t want to think! I want to be empty and comfortably numb. I want to be left alone!

It was a beautiful day by anyone’s standards. The bright yellow sun was splitting the sky. I felt drawn to drive from Kent where I live now, to my old home town, Brentwood, in Essex. There’s some really beautiful woodland around Brentwood, it forms part of London’s Green Belt.

When I was a child right up to being in my twenties, I used to go for lovely, really long woodland walks with my Grandmother, in Thorndon Woods near where she lived with my Grandfather. I adored my dear Grandparents – I truly couldn’t of had a closer relationship with them. They were such kind, wise, but fun, second parents to me and I count my blessings for having had them in my life every day. Gran and I used to pack a picnic and set off for the woods and so for nostalgia’s sake, I decided to drive to Thorndon Woods and follow one of our old walks, because there are many paths through the woods from which to choose. I hadn’t packed a picnic for myself though. I just didn’t think to do so. Gran and I had our very favourite walk, which was to walk past Lord Peter’s House on the very edge of the woods and follow the adjacent path which took us eventually after about 5 miles of walking into the very deepest heart of the woods.

Lord Peter’s House, is still owned by the descendants of Lord Peter, the many acres of surrounding woodland was sold to Brentwood District Council about 150 years or so previously and re-named “Thorndon Woods” another part of the grounds was sold for use as a beautiful private golf course with a purpose built club house. Walking past, Lord Peter’s House brought a flood of memories back. My Gran had told me on a walk we had together there one day, that her mother-in-law was born there. Apparently, she was the daughter of a footman and the ladies’ maid. It was certainly a very grand place of residence to have had on her birth certificate!

I walked on, retracing the steps of so many previous walks with my Gran and Julie my darling, recently deceased partner and lover. But this time, I did not feel the warm sun on my skin, nor notice timid rabbits peeping out from the under growth or the quickness of a squirrel dashing across my path coming down from one tree to run up another. No instead, I felt heavy and slow, wearing a mantle of grief and my thoughts and feelings were consumed with overwhelming loss.

Eventually, I felt that I could walk no more every step felt leaden. Then I found the old oak tree log that I’d so happily climbed on as a child and which Gran and I had sat on for many a picnic. Despite the warm sun, I shivered and started to quietly weep, my grief  completely enveloped me. Then, I heard someone approaching from behind and I started as a hand was laid upon my shoulder. I spun round, very quickly to defend myself. To my utter astonishment, I saw a very small young woman of about 3.5 feet in height, dressed completely from head to toe, in many different shades of green, she even had green pointy-toed ankle boots and had leaves of every shape and hue of green, woven into her hair. She was extraordinary! My mouth inadvertently dropped open and she stood looking at me with an expression of deep compassion on her most unusual but at the same time, strikingly beautiful face. Her voice was like a little soft bell and she said,
“Don’t cry Janet, there’s really no need”.
I started at the mention of my name!
“But who are you and how do you know my name?” I asked. She replied,
“I am Goda the spirit of these woods. I know you, I have always known you since before you were even born to this Earth. I have been sent by your Grandmother and Julie, to tell you that they are safe and that they are both watching over you and that they will be reunited with you when the time is right. But now, you must pursue your life to the full and enjoy your surroundings and the interests you have always had and you must go and live your life and become the best person that you can possibly be. And then, in the fullness of time, you and the other beloved members of your family and friends, will all be together in happiness and peace”.

I was truly, absolutely astonished at first, but then a great feeling of tranquility overwhelmed me and I can’t honestly explain it, but it seemed like it was the most natural encounter of my life. Goda then produced from behind a tree a picnic hamper filled with the most delicious food and drink. It was just as my Gran lovingly used to make and served us both in these woods all of those years ago.

After we had finished eating, Goda gently kissed me goodbye and took her leave. It was the most wonderful encounter with another being, that I’ve ever experienced. We communicated instinctively, often without the need to utter a single word. Afterwards, all my senses were filled with the woods with every noise, every smell, with the beauty of the wild flowers, the trees and the different patterns on their trunks, of the beauty in the ferns and the fungi and the shades of colour in the grasses and joy of seeing rabbits, and squirrels and then from a distance I clearly saw a magnificently handsome stag, who stared at me long and hard over one shoulder from the path where he was standing. Eventually, he was led away by a thin almost imperceptible thread which was held by Goda, who flashed me a radiant, farewell smile.

I returned to my car in a state of absolute euphoria. I knew that this had really happened, but instinctively, I also knew that if I ever told anyone at all, at best, they’d think I’d fallen asleep on that old picnic log, and at worst, they’d think I’d succumbed to my grief-induced madness!

The next week I went to see my Counsellor Marion again. “Wow! You seem so very much brighter Janet,” she said. Dare I say it, you even seem happy?”
“I am”! I explained, “You were completely right, Marion! I did see and experience wondrous things on my healing journey, through the woods. It truly was, a life-changing and visionary experience!
Marion seemed very pleased, but at the same time she gave me a quizzical look!

Jenny King

Deal, Kent

Comments on: "day eight" (2)

  1. wonderful piece depicting joy, pain and courage of love, loss and hope, thank you Jenny, X

  2. Meg Merrilees said:

    A wonderful, life enhancing story.

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