“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…” (Henry David Thoreau)
I have to come clean now and say that there is probably no way I am doing a full Walden and taking myself off into a cabin in the woods to live life to the absolute fullest. It’s to be noticed that Thoreau lived at Walden Pond for only two years, and spent four times as long actually writing his book.
But I can appreciate the idea of being fully immersed in nature. It’s a very Scandinavian ideal, called Friluftsliv in Norwegian, or literally ‘Free Air Life’. The freedom of access rules in Norway are very different from those in more uptight Britain (although access is looser in Scotland) so getting out into the countryside and spending time there is less likely to result in a hefty fine or prosecution for trespass.
There is a very interesting article on Friluftsliv on the Stylist magazine website, which explains why we (in the UK) generally don’t get as much outdoor time:
“We may find it harder to designate time to spend outdoors with our long working hours, but it’s more about attitude than anything else. We’re a nation of hermits who love nothing more than long lazy lie-ins and Netflix-and-chill on our days off. We’re over-worked and under-paid and often find that we don’t have the energy to head out to the hills in search of adventure.” (Emma Lavelle, Stylist Magazine)
And it’s true it is very easy to stay inside rather than venture out. But recently my husband and I made the decision to take to the woods for a small time every day, or at least every 2 out of 3 days. We put on trainers and just go to our nearest patch of woodland.
I’ve always been a wood elf by nature. I love the whisper of the trees and the changing seasons that you just cannot miss in a forest or glade. I got into trouble at school most for spending my lunchtimes in a copse surrounding a muddy pond, when I would circle the water and climb over the fallen branches all the while acting out scenes from The Empire Strikes Back and dreaming of the day when I could be a proper Jedi (this, of course, at a time when as far as I was aware only men could be Jedi. Pre-Clone Wars cartoon series and any awareness of the female padawan Ahsoka Tano: I was a Knight ahead of my time).
Or I’d spend time wandering through any woodland we passed and being an elf from Lord of the Rings. Or Eowyn the Shield-maiden. Trees are great, old, wise and offering warmth, shelter, a symbol of eternity and long life. Longer, definitely, than mine.
It takes an hour a day. The woodland (Childwall Woods) has a marked mile trail, good paths, and easy access to an area of open sky for the days when we need to see the wide open and feel free.
We go together or accompanied by any child who wants to come. It doesn’t matter. It’s time for the two of us to unwind, to see the green that is sadly missing from our office view and to walk off the stress. At the moment it’s only actually about 2 miles a day, but we’re building it up and planning on branching out. I know for a little more effort we can go to Camp Hill, Calderstones, Allerton Towers and beyond. It’s our own small friluftsliv in the City suburbs and, yes, it’s good.
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