When I was little, I spoke to the trees.
I spent most of my childhood summers on a small campsite next to an old village. Next to the campsite there was this river, so long and beautiful, but it was always dry in summer so the children went down to play on it.
I wasn’t that interested in the dry river, though. I liked looking at them while sitting down next to the trees and the flowers, and slowly getting to know them without actually knowing their names. I knew which ones withered the quickest, so I didn’t bring those to my mum, who was busy making jam out of the berries she collected. I knew which wood sticks were best for building houses in the middle of the forest and which ones would rot at the first summer rain of the season.
My friends and I truly believed that forest loved us. We spent hours in it, sharing stories about forest spirits and fairies that made those small, white flowers I adored grow every spring. We sat on the ground, next to the old trees, inside our wood fort and we just let time pass. I remember looking at the flowers and wanting to cry because I felt so connected to that place, like it was my sanctuary. I really loved my forest. I still do, and tears come to my eyes when I think about it. I took care of it, I lived in it. It was what brought me peace.
A few years ago I went into that same forest again and it was a really strange experience. It just looked so… empty of life. As I walked through it and I remembered all those things I had felt years ago, something in my chest kept tightening every step I took. I had left it alone. My forest and I had grown up separated, and now we weren’t together anymore. How could I have done something like that to my dearest friend? I remember smiling, frowning, opening my mouth several times, all of it remembering all those beautiful moments I had shared with it. 16 year old me realized how much she loved her forest because she had been away from it for years. It was a life changing experience.
Now I keep a little of that forest with me at all times. I see it on every wild flower, on every tree. I see my childhood and my love for every forest in the world. I just had to realize that, I guess. My little forest and I didn’t grow apart, we grew up together.