Billie Riley Counsellor, Supervisor and Trainer Derbyshire

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Derbyshire 8.9.15 Does everyone who spends time on the land begin to sense the memories it holds?

Yesterday I was on familiar walk (to give an old dog some space away from the tireless teeth of a new puppy), when I was tempted to trespass, just a little. I was drawn into the shade and presence of two of the oldest rowan trees I’ve met. Their silver bark had large cracks running downwards as if their heartwood was still having growth-spurts that took their skin by surprise.
And more than the age of the trees something else held us in the place, almost rooted us. Dog and I crouched down simultaneously as if unable to resist the pull of the ground itself. We sat beneath the largest rowan and I looked around; first at the far view on this clear autumn day, then at the dry-stone wall enclosing this field that wasn’t really a field. How do I describe this high enclosure, its grass not rich enough for pasture, not acid enough for moorland, owned but not used? Close by, a cluster of stones, large and mossy and unmoved by our visit.

Was it a settlement once? Is what I was feeling a long past human occupation? Or was the memory of a thousand other trees, the footfall of mammoth, the passing of a million moons, the inhalation and exhalation of endless seasons? There were no particular clues that I could read, but my body and that of the dog seemed to want to slow, to tarry, to breathe it in.
It was as if the place spoke to us: “this is good land, stay awhile and share in what has gone before”.
So we did, we sat in silence and stillness, and for me (or possibly both of us) some sense of wonder and wondering……… and we don’t know what or why, but it doesn’t matter….. we are merely here.
Today I read: “Men still live who remember {passenger} pigeons. Trees still live who, in their youth, were shaken by a living wind. But a decade hence only the oldest oaks will remember, and at long last only the hills will know.” (1)
We are merely here.
And though for some time I’ve put myself in the camp of those who promote “leave no trace” (1), I’m now with the forensic scientists who know that “every contact leaves its trace(3)”.
Yesterday I was tracing some past unknown to me and the impact was undeniable in that moment, and now as I write; and that landscape experience left its trace in me, and possibly in you as you read.
So now I’m here merely with a renewed intention, to be as conscious as I can be of the trace I will and do leave, inevitably.
Billie Riley

(1) A Sand County Almanac; A.Leopold 1949
(2) US Forest Service 1994
(3) Locard’s Exchange Principle







Seen on a sign in Platbos Forest, South Africa January 2018, it reads:

FOREST THERAPY
Did you know being in the natural forest has been scientifically proven to:
Lower blood pressure and heart rate
Elevate the immune system
Boost concentration levels
Enhance creativity and problem solving abilities
Increase empathy for others and nature
Relieve stress
Lift depression
Alleviate ADHD symptoms
“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanates from old trees that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit .”
Robert Louis Stevenson

From Your Brain On Nature by Eva M Selhub and Alan C Logan

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