My journey of rediscovery began many seasons ago; autumn.
The recent demise of my relationship had left me battle worn and weary. I was lost; ignorant of my own identity but afraid to seek it out for fear of who I might find, lest I should be further disappointed.
My life thus far lay as detritus, strewn before me in all its ugly detail. I could not escape the harsh truth. I was shackled by my own thoughts and feelings. As much as I wished it, respite was not a luxury afforded me.
The densely populated forest in which I found myself, whose beauty was without equal, was to become my prison, holding me captive through the varying seasons whilst trying to survive the related hazards.
The mulch underfoot served as a stark reminder of my decomposed relationship, carpeting the forest floor in an attempt to conceal the perils beneath. Many times I would fall foul of a hidden tree root or a cavernous hole, cleverly obscured by Mother Nature to catch me out should I become too complacent with the familiarity of my surroundings.
In my endeavours to discover a route to freedom, I wandered aimlessly amongst the trees, stumbling over the trailing ivy which threatened to asphyxiate all in its path through its determination to dominate its habitat.
Any feeling of progress would be abruptly eradicated by way of these methods. For every positive step I gained, there would immediately follow a downward spiral, taking me ever further away from my desired destination. It was akin to being locked in a game of snakes and ladders where the slithering reptiles monopolised the board.
With each passing day, my prison became more treacherous as the hidden dangers of autumn reluctantly relinquished to the blatant perils of winter. I watched in dismay as the potential pitfalls increased ten-fold when the forest traded in its rich red-gold carpet of leaves for a cold and slippery blanket of albino hue. Unsatisfied as she was with the difficulties posed by this change alone, Mother Nature, in her infinite wisdom, deemed it necessary to further challenge me by way of visual distortion and in so doing, caused me untold distress. Oftentimes I would wake from a fitful slumber and on opening my weary eyes, the limited visibility with which I was greeted would render me paralysed with fear. In my endeavours to avoid harm, I would remain prostrate, weighted down by the veil of dense fog which served only to disorientate me. This incapacitated state in which I often found myself was to be long and arduous, dispersing gradually with the passage of time. During my enforced solitary confinement, time would prove to be my only ally.
On the few occasions when I felt less despairing, I would rally myself to breach the boundaries of this fortress only to discover on reaching the perimeter that the troops had been reinforced and, in my weakened state, I was helpless to defeat them. And so it was that I did surrender any hope that had emboldened me to attempt such a futile bid for freedom.
The imposing trees stood sentry-like, strengthened by the gossamer links which stretched betwixt each one, their industrious creators busily making repairs where necessary to maintain this stronghold.
With the descent of darkness would come the battle for supremacy amongst the thrashing and swaying branches, their fighting eerily displayed as shadows on the forest floor, accompanied by the howling voice of the wind as it wended its way through the canopy high above. The casualties of this war would be scattered far and wide come the dawn, and the victors would continue to engage in combat until they too suffered the same fate.
Through the shortened winter days these battles raged on around me, as did the turmoil within. My world became smaller with the advancement of the enemy, reducing my prison to a copse.
And so it was here that you happened upon me, laid prone and foetal-like from the exhaustion of survival, the only evidence of life still beating within me betrayed by the trembling of my body from the onslaught of cold and fear, whilst the bed of snow upon which I lay offered nothing more than a soft surface to rest my weary self.
From here you helped me to my feet, supporting me as I stumbled like a new born calf over unfamiliar ground. Your carefully chosen words served as a salve applied liberally to my tortured soul and your kindness swathed me in a protective cocoon, deflecting all potential harm. You were my salvation.
Relentlessly, winter marched on, using all within its armoury to bring me down but it did not reckon on my protector. Your belief in me proved to be a powerful shield, holding back the enemy at a safe distance to allow me to recover from the trauma I had endured.
You stayed with me through to the inevitable demise of this unforgiving season and though recalcitrant in its departure, winter was defeated.
Onwards we travelled over the ever-changing landscape of the forest. Mother Nature was in her element; she had her paint palette to hand and was making good use of it. With the dawning of each new day her daubs became more colourful and with the onset of spring, light was no longer at a premium. Consequently, hazards which were previously concealed had nowhere to hide. As my stride grew less tentative, so my confidence increased.
The path along which you were guiding me seemed familiar as landmarks I recognised came into view. You were a living, breathing compass bringing me home.
While Mother Nature busied herself with the task of breathing life back into the flora and fauna, so I too experienced my own gradual rebirth.
Being in the midst of this colour explosion, I deviated from my course and stopped awhile to fully appreciate my surroundings. I was in the presence of a true Master. No artist could compare with the talent displayed before me. This realisation gave me renewed resolve. Though life can be cruel and tragic, hazardous and traumatic, its beauty abounds, transcending all else.
The cornflower blue sky provided the backdrop for this Masterpiece. And in the foreground, standing proud under the spotlight of the suspended orange orb were the blossoming trees, clothed in their finery of pink and white hues. The earth below carpeted in rich, seasonal green punctuated with the yellows, whites, pinks and blues that danced together to the whispering music of the gentle breeze.
The early morning dew would absorb the sun’s rays and evaporate skyward creating, as it did so, a fine mist which settled on the delicate spiders’ webs that appeared as if by magic, seemingly suspended in mid-air.
Also captured in this morning haze were the swarms of aphids, occupied with their feeding frenzy before the heat of the day set in.
As the day lengthened, if we were patient, Mother Nature would adorn her artwork with more detail, but for now she was satisfied with her creation.
Having taken this time out to soak up the splendour of my surroundings, I continued on my way with a spring in my step and a song in my heart. This brief interlude was the catalyst for everything that followed. I had found my panacea and as my guide, you were instrumental in its discovery.
Overjoyed as I was with my progress and new found freedom, I also felt a sense of sadness in knowing that it meant our time together was almost at an end. For many months, your constant presence had been a source of strength for me. When I was at my lowest ebb, you listened without prejudice as I haemorrhaged my tortured soul, never offering unsolicited advice but rather standing by to clear away the ensuing detritus. You provided a safe haven in which I was able to question myself, painful as this was, in a bid to affect positive change. On the numerous occasions when I crumpled to my knees, you helped me to my feet and brushed me down. You were unrelenting in your support and encouragement, seeing the good in me to which I was blind.
So here I now stand, a safe distance from my recent past that came so close to destroying me; in a place where I can reflect upon that time without fear of falling once again into the quagmire of negative emotions which lurk in the shadows of my psyche.
I am reborn a stronger, more resilient woman. I will never be the person again that I was before I began this journey. She is lost to me now, yet another bereavement to add to the mounting number. I shall not mourn her but rather, bid her farewell with a lighter heart whilst unfurling my newly developed wings with which I shall propel myself from this cocoon and heavenward. Once there, the vista below will open up to reveal the complexity of the route I have taken to gain this freedom, and I will wonder at my achievement with a sense of pride. Henceforth, I will happily swoop and soar over this terrain, secure in the knowledge that I can now recognise the potential dangers and steer a course to avoid them. And for this, I have you to thank.
You have brought me home, provided me with direction so that I may not lose my way again. Thank you. Two small words charged with carrying the burden of expressing my gratitude!