Shane Bradford

Trees For The Wood

When I was about 7 years old, myself and a friend, whose name I forget, were separated from my mother and older brother during an autumn walk in the woods somewhere in Kent, in England. The realisation that we were alone happened slowly. At first I assumed we would be reunited with the group at any minute. But nobody showed up, even when we began to actively seek them out and call to them. As I remember, I had half wanted this to happen and now that it had, I felt entirely at ease and totally satisfied that for the first time in my life I was properly and irreversibly free.

It was early-ish in the day. We were not worried about fading light. It was warm enough so that warmth was not an issue. It was not raining, although it had rained at some point before, enough to summon the vapour of rotten leaves and release the damp smell of the soil. Forming also a background drip…drip…drip

We found pieces of chalk and drew arrows onto rocks indicating the direction we were headed. We clear-mindedly had the idea that if we headed down hill we would eventually come to a road. So we headed slowly down hill but in order to do so we often had to scramble through bushes and undergrowth into places that looked impenetrable while all the time trusting to our conviction that downwards would deliver us to wherever we ought to be.

Along the way we found a vine hanging down from a large tree that had a little dip beside it. Unbelievably to me, the vine formed a natural swing over the dip and we spent some time testing the possibilities of this natural wonder.

Another time we rigged a fallen trunk to a rocky platform to access a still taller tree. From there we managed a view across the valley and away. No sign of anyone or of anything man made, but it was further than either of us had seen before, by virtue of our own efforts. It was a good try but after an indistinct period of time we moved on.

Eventually we got a little weary and the vague notion that we would be in big trouble with the powers that be was coming to the fore. We stepped up our efforts to find a route to the ‘bottom’ although to the bottom of what we didn’t really know. Then as confirmation of our cunning and reward for our reasoning, a road. We had invented logic! A police car, part of the search party soon picked us up.

My mum was surprisingly angry I thought, chewing me out in the back of the police car. I didn’t think all the blame for getting lost was mine, in fact I thought we had acted rather sensibly by finding our way to the road and leaving arrows for people to follow us. (I was delighted to find out that the search party had actually seen and followed these directives). To a large extent the balling I took confirmed my instinct that being alone and safe in a wood, enjoying a true freedom, was better than the usual world of commands and restrictions I was used to.

Shane Bradford