Shifting shape

The sense of loss was overwhelming. The woodlands had always been there and I had  imagined them being there always, but now men had parked their cars on the track and cut down trees one after another. And then, only a few weeks later, they did the same in another woodland. The canopy opened up and it was as if the magic these woodlands held for me had escaped.

You look unsure. Do my sounds remind you of the hum of car engines and the revving of chain saws? Do my sounds not help you leave time behind? (From: Embrace)

By the time trees were felled, I was editing Embrace, myperformance poem in which I investigated my feelings towards the woodlands around my home. Ever since I moved here, the woodlands had played with my imagination and they had been where I conceived and developed many creative ideas. True, when writing my poem, they started to live a life of their own, but Embrace is, and will always be, a reflection of the way the woodlands affected my imagination up to the time of writing. There, on the corner where I often enter the woods awaits that fairytale house where wood smoke arises from the chimney and which gets me in the right mood to imagine the play of shadows in moonshine.


Now these trees had been cut, and with the clearing of those trees something else had become clear. Without realising it, I had developed a strong sense of ownership of the woodlands around my home and this feeling had been shattered as the legal owner(s) of the woodlands had given order to fell trees. Suddenly, the motivation why so many communities in Deeside – Birse, Aboyne, Durris, Maryculter – had bought forests or otherwise co-managed with Forestry Commission Scotland was crystal clear.

At times it felt I had lost the woodlands that I had captured in my poem. Indeed, the woodlands have changed in appearance, but almost a year on I surprise myself by walking the paths between sycamore and beech trees remembering the scenes inspired by specific places and experiences, and these places are coming to life again. Could it be that because I wrote the poem that I am able to revive my feelings about those woodlands and have them fuel my imagination once again?

But sorrow will not last. The black bird will perch again. Elder trees will grow, their white umbrellas developing heavy crops of deep red berries. I have shifted shape and my shape shall shift back. (From: Embrace)

My book-length, narrative poem Embrace is available from Lulu Publishing and Amazon.

Copyright text and image Petra Vergunst


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