Parking my car at Drakeford Bridge near Lustleigh, which is where I had dowsed I should go for a walk, I took out my rods to ask them to show me which way to set off. As I left the car park and began to cross the bridge, I felt compelled to stop and watch the river below. Within seconds, I changed from watching the sunlight on the water to feeling myself being drawn to the movement of the river. I was made acutely aware of the fact that water had flowed under the bridge for hundreds of years and would continue to do so, while all around in the wider world many things had and would change. I also thought about the fact that the water would flow onwards out of my sight, but would still exist and as part of the water cycle, it may evaporate into the sky, but would return to earth again.
Triggered by these thoughts, tears began to flow as I thought of the changes happening in my life linked to those I love ageing and the inevitable fact that death will happen one day. I also thought about how parts of us remain after death: in other people’s memories, the results of actions we took, or in other ways. Although we may appear to have physically ‘gone’ we leave an imprint. The tears passed and feeling calmer, I continued my walk, asking my rods to show me which way to turn at each junction.
I hadn’t walked in this area for several months and it seemed that all around were examples of change, but also of people working with nature. There was a new gate post with a plaque to the memory of a man who had worked as a Volunteer Reserve Warden and Water Bailiff in the area. The nesting boxes and bat boxes were still there, but some of the trees had been cut back in an attempt to help the trees combat ash dieback.
In a clearing where a magnificent oak tree stood until a few years ago, I looked for the stump. A mass of ferns and other new growth now surround it, but the stump remains if you know where to look. I dowsed where it would be appropriate for me to sit for a while. Sitting in the grass, I closed my eyes and listened to the river flowing nearby and the wind roaring in the trees above, while I remained sheltered on the ground. I had come out to connect with bird spirit medicine, but could hear no birds. As I opened my eyes, colours leapt at me: the greenery surrounding me, the yellow of the dandelions and the orange of butterflies.
Further on, I crossed the river again at Hisley Bridge and sat on a bench to watch the river. A couple walked over the bridge towards me and then took a track beside the river, stopping to take photos. I wondered whether I should tell them that the main path was in another direction and I wasn’t sure whether they would be able to continue their walk if they went that way, but then I stopped. Who was to say that they wanted to follow the path which most others take? Isn’t life about finding your own path?
I dowsed that the water was my medicine for that day, that it was for my heart chakra, helping me to cry and my emotions to flow. As I continued to sit and give thanks to the river, I had an increasing urge to paddle in the water. Taking off my shoes and socks, I stepped into the water and immediately saw the bridge from a new angle. The water was cold, but refreshing, especially as I splashed it onto my face. After standing in the river for a while, a dog appeared on the other side. It looked at me as if to say, ‘What are you doing there?’ I smiled and then laughed as it ran off again.
Feeling calm and refreshed and ready to carry on with my walk (and whatever life had in store for me!), I put on my socks and shoes and continued my walk back to the car.
I have since been told that this is an example of shinrin yoku or ‘forest bathing’, being in and connecting with nature. I connected with the earth by sitting on the ground, with the air by listening to the wind, with fire through the yellows and oranges I saw and with the water by taking a paddle. Nature gave me the medicine I needed on that day and the dog’s appearance made me laugh to help me to heal after the emotions I had been through. I had walked this route many times in the past, but it had never felt like this before. This time I experienced it in a totally new and powerful way.