Back at my parents for Valentine weekend was never going to be easy. I escaped on Sunday afternoon for a walk in the woods. My childhood wood. The one which had always symbolised wilderness and magic and adventure to me because it was the only one I could get to undetected by my parents.
I avoided the crowds of the Country Park and headed ‘off piste’ to lean my back against a many branched oak tree and blend and be still and become part of nature, not apart from it.
A friend told me recently that he too felt this need to separate himself from people, to head for the countryside and be alone. This, he told me, made him, ‘not normal.’ I had thought on this. Was I also not normal? Probably, yes. After all, few women of my age were spending Valentine’s afternoon snuggled up to an oak tree in a wood. Clearly, by this benchmark, I was crazy but, to my mind, wishing to be surrounded by people 24/7 was unthinkable, that was simply insanity!
A blackbird dashed through the wood in alarm pursued by a sparrowhawk, twisting on its side, flashing its pale plumaged undercarriage. Neither of them noticed me. The sparrowhawk missed, the blackbird crashed into scrub. I saw the path the hawk took by the wave of crows rising to mob it.
It was growing dark. I knew the parents would worry. I headed back, taking the less used path beside the derelict hospital.
A barn owl hunted the rough grass, luminous and long winged in the gathering gloom. I hid in the trees watching it quarter the grass, legs hanging low, listening, listening to the shrews, that I too could hear. Out here alone, silent, abnormal and happy to be so.