Images and words by Bertrom Wilder
Whitsun is the name used in Britain -and throughout the world among Catholics, Anglicans and Methodists- for the Christian High Holy Day of Pentecost. It is celebrated the seventh Sunday after Easter and in an attempt of religious syncretism this photo essay is to remind us why oriental religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism do worship trees, rivers and fauna
I was about five years old when I saw my first real tree. Not the bedraggled, sad affair put up at Christmas in the corner of the living room in our house, to be decked in baubles and lights, but a real tree that you could wrap your arms around if you so desired. Those of us born into the Northern industrial landscapes dotted with factories with their tall chimneys belching smoke and ash, would spend a lifetime choking on debris in the cotton mills where the majority of my family worked, and what seemed, inevitably, to be my destiny.
So, as often happens in stories, I escaped into books and into poetry, and music, that all gave me hope of a better future, or at least a tolerable present. Then, one day, there was a Whitsun school trip that took us woeful kids to a faraway wood that my teacher wandered through every Sunday. She thought that it might be nice; an escape for her pupils, even just for an afternoon.
I remember the bus trip away from the cobbled streets, the bustle, and grime, full of shouts and laughter, and eager anticipation of where we were heading. Narnia I thought. Then, disembarking; the shouty bustling hoards spilling out into the cool peaceful calm at the gates to the wood. Then, walking through giant trees, dappled sunlight leaving patterns upon my skin, flitting through branches, through hollows of shade and dim. I trod paths where my boots crushed bark and leaf. I remember we had dressed up a bit for this trip, and the collar of my freshly ironed shirt dug into my neck; sweat running into my new tweed coat, with flecks of green and brown, almost like camouflage, that made me blend in with these bucolic surroundings. I wanted to disappear forever there. My teacher’s steady hand guided me as we entered an open field, wild flowers tumbling in soft breezes, leaving behind the slightly rank, deadened air of the rutted track behind us now.
I rested on a chequered blanket, the smell of apples, and cheese sandwiches fill my memory, as do the flies buzzing, nettles stinging, and then a stranger passing who waved and smiled. It is a Northern thing to take the time to say ‘How do’ to strangers, no more no less is required to share those sacred moments of friendliness, and to connect with another soul.
These thoughts echo within me each time I enter a wood. The overstory, those scattered trees becomes my own tale, reflected each time I set foot in those quiet spaces, where the deadened silence brings back this forever childhood memory.
Bertrom Wilder is a retired teacher, theatre director, chef and bibliophile among other things. His passions also include psychogeography, film, and photography plus an admiration of the inner peace that resides in wild things. Follow him on Twitter at @Bertrom