As I walk down the river along some impressive old buildings, I could only think of the moment that I would arrive in nature. My mind was only wanting that. I would have to walk another 20 kilometers through farmers fields until that moment would come. This four days of hiking would be enough to find the peace of mind where I so much longed for. This whole pandemic has so much paradoxes and that confuses me. On the one hand there is this struggle in myself because so much is unknown and on the other hand I know everything. Happiness, in Tolstoys words, rest, music, nature and books, that is all there is time for. We slow down and you’d better know what to do when there is suddenly plenty of time and nowhere to go.
After a long day hiking I walk upon a big freestanding house towards a woman that is making much noice by mowing the lawn. I hate to ask people for favors but I got to do it. “Can I fill my water bag with some water?”, I ask in a voice that isn’t even coming close to the voice of the lawn mower. She looks at me, stops the machine and says, “what did you say?” I try again, this time with more luck. She points out at her husband standing at the garage, cleaning and organizing some tools. “Yes, no problem”, she says, “he will show you the way!” I smile politely and take out the water bag of my big bag that I carry with me with all things for camping.
The mind chatter is always there. Why again do I hate to ask people for favors? People are and have been always nice and besides that, from the talks I’m learning some of what’s happening in this country. I don’t know why I hate it so much, maybe I just want to be alone and don’t be troubled with my social anxiety anyway.
“I’m a market man”, the man at the garage says without me asking for it, “I sell meat!” We walk into what looks like a slaughterhouse. “And you slaughter the animals here?” I ask to keep the conversation going and without knowing anything about the logistics of meat. “No, that’s for the big houses, we pack it here and then I sell it at several markets in this region.” We start to talk a bit about meat production and then he asks some about my little hiking adventure. We go well into conversation until that one question: “And where do you sleep?”
“Just somewhere in the forest!” I say with a little proudness and excitement of me feeling that adventurous being that I so much long to be. I got a strange look from the man. I never know if people think I’m totally crazy and irresponsible or they admire me for it. I naively smile. “You know, there is a campsite up in the forest and they probably open right now,” he says, trying to help me out. I politely thank the man and say to him that I will look into it. I put the water bag back in the big bag and I wonder if I should blame myself for telling him a lie.
With that hike I was on my way to an island up in the north of the country. My friend Erwin would give me and also Lisa, who would join later, a tour on a fatbike all around the beautiful island. But the third day my feet hurt so much and I got all blisters under my feet on both of them. I couldn’t even walk straight anymore and got on the phone asking Erwin of these bikes were e-bikes and then he almost yelt at me saying: “E-bikes? Not under my watch!” So in the end I didn’t even reach the island and the tour because I had to turn back because of my feet hurting so much.
It’s a few weeks later and I’m off again. Now on my bicycle. It’s a beautiful clear night and I’m looking into flames of a campfire and think about a wonderful day searching for mushrooms and dead pine tree wood. The scent of the pine tree wood goes together with the smoke blowing in my face and I’m just thinking how I love to be in nature. Today I learned all about the bolete type of mushroom. I spotted a lot of the chestnut one but I didn’t dare to boil and eat them. I consider myself a beginner of the in search of mushroom type of human and I’m not even close to a confident level yet. To avoid killing myself I made a curry madras from the vegetables I bought at the local vegetable store. Choosing the store over the big supermarket was a good thing to do. Support your locals especially in this weary pandemic! And what a good human being I feel myself from that thought anyway.
I open the thermos that I (since my latest Russian adventure) always bring in autumn and winter and pour some hot water into a cup with a bag of so called sleepy time tea with that magic ingredients like chamomile, tilia flowers and valerian. I’ve been camping for two straight nights in this forest and yesterday I was visiting a friend. It was a great visit. There was an amazing atmosphere because he and his wife got their first child. “It’s like I’m on a ecstasy trip of four days now!” He told me. And yes, he looked really happy.
My gift was a card saying, a miracle of God! Because that was all I could find while wondering with my bicycle in the Bible Belt part of the Netherlands. It felt like a joke when buying it but later on I also thought about the truth in it. They know me as the hippy kind of person with the long hair, which visited many countries to understand that there is not one particular being which is God as Christianity and some other religions teaches. It’s that God is in all of us. God is in this trees, mushrooms, in the moon and sky and even in this cup of tea! I think this while taking a sip and looking at the fire inhaling the scent of the burning pine tree wood.
They doubted whether having a child was the right decision with all this horrible knowledge of we as human beings destroying planet earth and all that. The child came as a gift, a miracle, after birth and seeing their daughter for the first time they instantly shifted and had an indescribable love for that little person. “I never loved anyone like this, Henk”, said the mother to me while she couldn’t hold back her tears from that feeling. Oh, what a world! It was lovely to see! I saw a happy couple even that they had worried a lot about the responsibilities of having this child. And yes, maybe there is hope for me, I couldn’t help to think when jumping on my bicycle to be alone in the forest just to connect with trees, mushrooms and fire.
I smile over this wonderful days while giving the fire some more wood. That hiking trip sure turned out to be a big drama and now I was sitting here in this beautiful forest having this wonderful thoughts and feeling all content.
“Well, hope is in nature!” I yelled at the forest.
And all the pine trees took an interesting look at me and started all singing: “We are the trees and we are here, just standing and we already know that!” And then the leaves whispered in a sweet sounding voice: “We are the leaves and we jiggle in the wind, that’s all, we come and go, grow green, turn yellow, and fall.
Suddenly there was a voice from a weary mushroom starting to flap out some words! “I’m the stinky fungus!” Yelled the weary creature and then continued in a more worrying sounding voice: “I look like a penis but my head is all eaten by ants! Help me! Help me!”
“Will you shut up!” Said the tree boil. “I’m here all fluffy and meditating in silence!”
“Well, well,” said the sticky coral fungus sitting on a piece of wood looking she was going to say something very important. But she just stared in the distance and said nothing!
“I’m the queen of the forest!” Said the common fungus in her beautiful dress and, assuming a most worldly pose (God knows where and when she learned it) made herself look far more worthy then her name was suggesting. Suddenly her eyebrows frowned: “You know you can eat me,” her face turned all sweet and sad and then looking very serious, “but let me tell you, it won’t fill up your belly!”
A black beetle walked into the conversation. He turned his head looking all hungry and said in a very polite voice: “I’m sorry guys, does anybody of you have something to snack for me?” And everybody just ignored the beetle in silent giggling so he took off finding other mushrooms for snacks.
“And remember all!” The sun was saying in a deep voice, he was about to go to sleep already. “All this comes back to me, then goes again, and comes back again, then goes again, and I don’t care, I still keep on giving light!”
“I’m fire!” Said the fire while blowing some scent of the burning pine tree wood in the already dark fresh air. “I’ll just keep on being fire until there is no more wood! Well, good night then!”
And I took the last sip of tea from the cup, being all warm and fussy from the fire, I climbed into my sleeping bag and fell into a cozy peaceful sleep.
This short story titled ‘When nature could talk’ can be downloaded in a digital publication.