Field Notes: Forest Bathing & Fairy Encounters

JUNE 2021

Feet on earthskin.

Cool fresh breath of early morning.

Sunlight reaching with warm glowing fingertips.

Locate yourself in place and time

And know that you are held.

You are always held.

June 2: Forest Scent Trails

It’s around 9pm as I make my way through an ocean of magnetic forest vibrations. Her presence and petrichor is strong after the rain. The songs of the forest are enchanting as dusk descends into darkness. The rains came in hard this afternoon, drenching the earth and quenching her thirst. After a couple weeks of heat and sun, when it rains, we are all gifted with the energy of renewal. Water cleanses everything it touches.

forest scene with dappled sunlight streaming through the forest canopy and illuminating the vibrant green grass growing alongside a trail through the woods

During a lull in the rain, I headed out to visit the pond, what’s now becoming a daily ritual. The forest was gleaming and SO happy! Something happens in the forest after the rain… you know the feeling. It’s as if the forest is more alive in their sensitivities. Just like after a swim, body still dripping, that layer of water invites heightened sensitivity to my outermost organ. How the touch of sunlight or cool breeze against my skin becomes magnified, widening my portal of receptivity. In fact, according to Paul Stamets, he believes that interlacing mycelial membranes awaken in a forest after rainfall…

“These sensitive mycelial membranes act as a collective fungal consciousness. As mycelia’s metabolism surge, they emit attractants, imparting sweet fragrances to the forest and connecting ecosystems and their species with scent trails.”

Scent trails are akin to footprints but rather odors left in passing, by which a person or animal may be traced. Scent trails help us to locate ourselves in the space/time continuum, connecting the past with the present, in order that we might understand where it is we are going. Everywhere we go, we leave a trace of ourselves behind… which is to say we leave a mark and make an impact on the places we inhabit. What kind of impact we choose to leave is the question I hold. Put differently, what signals or fragrances are we emitting in the trails we leave behind? Who are we seeking to attract and to what end?

June 6: A Sacred Encounter

I started my walk around 6pm. I took the pine needle trail until I came to a small creek. I decided to go off trail for a while, following the path of the water, meandering to its flow. Eventually the thorny brush and dense overgrowth took over and I cut across until I met backup with another trail. I noticed how the lighting of the forest was darkening, so I thought I better start to walk back before dark. The mossy rock trail was the furthest on the land, so I knew I had at least another 30min.

I took my time feeling at ease with the forest even at dusk. The trail met at a beech tree before turning into the meadow trail. I took a moment to gaze at this mother beech tree who stands central in a natural clearing right beside a small creek. I slowly continued on until all of a sudden I heard a big SLAP! I immediately knew what it was... the sound of a beaver!!! So I turned around and walked back. Sure enough there was a beaver swimming back and forth in the creek.

It had just finished raining so the creek was really high. There I watched it swimming right in front of me, probably 50ft away. I could see it’s body and tail and it’s rear webbed feet… and it just stayed right there though I wondered why it wasn’t swimming further away from me. Another loud SLAP!! I watched it’s tail hit the water with a big splash. Then all of a sudden in the corner of my eye I saw the flash of something large land in a tree branch right above me.

I looked up and gazed into the large black eyes of a barred owl. Her face perfectly and symmetrically outlining those black holes, and soft fluff at the base of her feet. I thought she might be young because she still had lots of plumage and soft feathers. Her gaze remained steady on me, and together we soul gazed for a few minutes. I felt the depth of my soul emerge as I looked into the dark, mysterious, fearless, abyss of her soul. Deep and absorbing, we witnessed each other in a long moment of presence.

Then, as quickly as she came, she left, turning her head swiftly she paused and then flew off. I returned my attention to the beaver who was still swimming back and forth. For a third time, a big SLAP!! At that point, I decided to leave them be. So I thanked the beaver, the owl and the forest for gifting me in such a profound way. I then headed home along the beaver lodge trail.

June 12: Finding Fairies

Today I made up my mind that I would finally go looking for fairies. Yup, you heard me… fairies. Call me silly or even childish. I will only take it as a compliment since I carry mad respect for children, the many worlds they inhabit, and other ways of knowing that so many of us lose touch with as we become so-called "civilized" adults. What happens in the process of indoctrination is a loss of wonder, imagination, and a connection with the mystical and magickal. But all of these worlds and other beings live on whether we are in relationship with them or not, whether we see them or not. Thus, I have made it a part of my life’s mission to keep alive my connection with the imaginal and magickal.

Finding fairies is serious business though... it requires time and asks that you create space in your life to spend time in nature moving slowly, listening, sitting quietly, and just noticing. It is a practice that requires dedicated time doing what some would deem absurd!

The beautiful thing is that the little people are always waiting for our return, elbeit shy they might seem at first. I don’t blame their initial skepticism or even apprehension since many fear the little fairy folk! For people fear what they simply do not understand. Going so long without being seen would surely make one feel overlooked and neglected. But fairies are curious little creatures and they are always hovering close by, and sometimes right under your nose!

When you think of fairies, what comes to mind? Do you think of Tinker Bell or the Three Good Fairies? Do you think of forest nymphs, ugly gremlins, or little people with mushroom hats? Fairies are shape-shifters that come in many different forms, so there is no right or wrong way to imagine and relate to them. I have always felt a connection to the fairy folk, though my relationship to them became stronger when I started seeking them out. All of a sudden they appeared as if out of nowhere, revealing themselves to me in their multifaceted forms.

Fairies are the smallest people of the world, from the bacterial, fungal and mycelial, to invertebrates, like winged insects and creepy crawly ones. They are cleaver, quick-witted, charming, and not surprisingly mischievous! It's important to seek out fairies with an open mind and without expectation. You'll need to create unstructured time (what's that?) in your day for meandering in a place that calls to you... perhaps a stream or a grove of trees.

I chose to go meandering in the woods right by my house where I have felt the fairy energy strong. I follow the sweet babbling brook that winds through a forest of tall pines, mighty oaks, far-reaching beeches, not to mention so many more. The little banks are covered in squishy moss and I can only imagine how lovely it must be for a tiny little fairy to rest here. Here I sit and I wait patiently to see who might live here, and who might want to play with me!

June 17: Flower Power

I’m excited to share with you a few new flowers that I’ve found over the last few weeks. As I alluded to in this post, one of the main reasons why I like to run is that it gets me out on the land and in my body. There really is no feeling quite like running through the woods like a wild woman, weaving between roots and branches, intoxicated by the aromas of the forest that sooth and yet invigorate me. But honestly, I just love getting out there to stumble upon new sights and to explore new places I have yet to touch. Sometimes it will be a sound that grabs my attention and pulls me off path… like an unknown birdsong or the time I heard ducks flapping their wings in the water just out of sight. Other times it is just a gut feeling, an inner prompting, a call of spirit. And more often than not, it’s flowers!!

God I’m a sucker for flowers…. but who isn’t? Aren’t we supposed to fall madly in love with the maiden’s beauty (and each others) ? Well I do and I’m all the better for it! I love meeting new friends and plant folk… it’s like nature’s kinder surprise! You never know who’s going to show up. I think that’s one of the beautiful gifts that the seasons provide. With the passage of time and the turning of the wheel, everything around us continually changes as maturing forms recede and new life unfolds. The question is, are we paying attention? Fire Pink who blessed us with her bold presence in May was only with us for a few weeks. I feel grateful to have met her soon after my arrival to this new place I get to call home and I look forward to touching her presence again next year.