Secreted away in the High Jura Forest, in a tiny grove known to just a few, The Ancients wait. They wait for children. Not to eat them as dark, wrong telling stories from the past would suggest. How we justified destroying the ancient forests with our myths of the evil darkness they contained. Not these trees. These trees carry a deep, sacred, ancient wisdom, and they want to share it, especially with children.
“Bring them up, bring them to us,” they say whenever I visit. They don’t mind if adults come, because adults can still learn too, if they’re open, but so often they bring pain with their chainsaws and pulling machines.
No, it’s the little ones, the children, The Ancients want to see.
They know that if the little ones come, they might feel The Ancients’ presence, their dignity, their awe, that they might fall in love with Mother Earth. Perhaps with this, The Ancients wonder, might they grow to become adults who respect the beauty of nature, who could love themselves? Could they live as if they loved the world?
As the last, still living souls from a time long lost from memory, The Ancients feel a heavy responsibility. They and only they remember the stories of the ancestors, and they pass these to the young trees growing in the forest around them. Their stories travel through the underground mycelial network as gently offered whispers recalling lives and times from before even The Ancients were born. These are stories that were shared with The Ancients by Ancients that stood when they were tiny seedlings, just as other Ancients before them shared their stories, all the way back to a time when icy glaciers covered and shaped this land, a time when there were no trees, no Ancients here.
The whispers move from tree to tree, over and under rocks, travelling high up the mountain to all the souls there, the little bushes, mushrooms, other trees, all the animals too; the stories are shared with them all. The stories pass to other souls all the way down to the valley below where, though faint, and impeded by the cut agricultural fields, birds carry them on. The birds tweet the stories to all the trees there and remind them, especially the young ones, that they are still connected, that The Ancients know them, that the past still lives within them, and that the future might be different. They teach the young trees that they are part of the Great Forest that once covered these lands and teach them how to contribute to the beauty of the world.
For a long time, these Ancients have been waiting for a special boy to visit. Not just any boy, but this boy, this little one who had listened with an excited heart as his father shared the story of The Ancients’ presence, high up the mountain, shrouded in mist, where the Lynx and Pine Marten hunt, where the Chamois dance on steep rock faces, where the Red Foxes skip and the Mountain Rabbits rumble, where heavy snow creates a wintery, silent exception in an otherwise too noisy world.
This boy loves Nature. He loves trees with all his heart. When I first visited The Ancients, I told them about this boy. “He’s a special one,” I shared. He speaks to trees, he loves wildflowers. He beams when he thinks of wild boar, of butterflies and deer, of little birds and big. This boy is still Nature. He hasn’t yet been tamed. “V-e-r-y g-o-o-d, v-e-r-y g-o-o-d,” The Ancients whispered, for Ancients don’t speak loudly, or quickly.
It’s been a long-time and many visits since I first mentioned him and each time I go without him, The Ancients frown. “W-h-e-r-e i-s h-e, t-h-i-s b-o-y?” they ask. They know I mean well but don’t understand the vagaries of human diaries, of work, school, of other commitments, getting things coordinated. The Ancients have been standing here for almost 400 years, what do you mean ‘schedules?’
But this all changed last Saturday. The special boy finally visited.
I hosted a Forest Therapy walk in the forest above my home in the foothills before the road climbs to where The Ancients wait. The forest turned on a beautiful show with magical colours tinting the forest floor, most of the leaves have fallen now.
The special, untamed boy’s mother joined the walk, and his father had planned to take him around and about in the foothills, to see if they could see a Lynx. Just a week earlier, I’d taken the boy’s father to visit The Ancients and when the father got home and shared that he’d been to see them, the boy became upset. He’d been told of these Ancients, and he was feeling their call. How could it be that his father would visit them without him?
After we headed into the forest for our walk, the boy and his father climbed into their car and slowly made their way up. Up and up, they went. The boy looked out the window and spoke to the passing beings from his heart. To him, they are not Alder, nor Beech. They’re not Fir, or Spruce. Just as he isn’t Human. They’re beings, just like him. When his father asked him if he’d like to meet The Ancients, the boy’s heart burst into life.
“Can we papa?” he asked, unbelieving.
“We can,” said his father.
They parked their car off the road and wandered back down the way they’d come to the hidden path that marks the way to The Ancients and together, they silently moved into the forest.
The rest of the story is a private experience shared between a little boy, his father, and The Ancients. It’s not for telling here. We do know, and have been given permission to share, that the oldest and wisest Ancient and the boy had a special moment together. This moment….
Having spent some quiet time in the presence of The Ancients, the little one decided he needed to draw The Ancients and that he should write some special words about them:
“The tree’s life is friendly, quiet and beautiful for the whole wide world” – écrit à Gingins dans la Territoire des Arbres Anciens.
The boy’s father captured this intimate moment so beautifully, and as I look at the photo, I find many emotions rising in my heart. I don’t see a little boy sitting next to a tree. I see hope. I see two souls entwined. I see an Ancient watching over the boy, intrigued by what he’s drawing and writing, pledging to love him for the rest of his life, whispering him the secrets of times beyond memory. I see a little soul receiving the gift. I see connection; it’s like The Ancient has an arm around him, protecting him, reassuring him, loving him.
I see happiness. I see beauty. Yes, I see love.
The Ancients are right. If we can bring them the children, perhaps there is hope yet for humans?