Staring into the gaps in-between,
We find the things that cannot be seen.
Hiding in the bushes in the garden
and the hedgerows in the fields.
am I watching them
or are they watching me.
Darker than the blackest night
With sparkling eyes
that twinkle with the light
of stars burning bright.
There is a darkness that lurks in the shadows. I actually don’t know what it is but in my childhood, like some earlier explorer discovering a new species of creature for the first time, I was fascinated with observing the Shadow entities. Looking back at this as an adult, I have no idea what this was about, I actually have more questions than answers. Strange how as a child you don’t question what you do, instinctively you just do it, maybe that’s something as adults we should remember how to cultivate.
The natural world captivated my young mind and I would spend hours reading about and drawing my favourite animals. To me the Shadows are just another part of that, another creature to be studied, only it wasn’t in any book I knew, maybe I could be the first person to document it and become the David Attenborough of the unseen world.
As my curiosity grew I became bolder and rather than watching things in the garden through the window, I decided one day it would be fun to go on an expedition into the fields. The fields are literally across the road from my family home, you can see them from the living room window.
I roped my friend in and briefed her on the plan of action, to hunt down and observe the Shadow creatures.
We set off in full stealth mode across the field, treading softly as possible through the tall grass, towards a large over grown boundary hedge. The fields had long been abandoned and everything had gone feral. Once neat hawthorn hedges had become gnarled trees over long dried out ditches, where imaginations roamed free with trolls and fairies, but today we hunt Shadows.
I’m not sure I was prepared for what we encountered that day, in all honesty.
We stopped half way across the field as I could sense something moving just beyond the hedge. Don’t move or it will see us. Adrenaline kicked in as this Shadow was immense, watching Shadows in the garden through the safety of the window was one thing and they had been small no bigger than a man but this creature before was as big as an elephant and growing larger as it came towards us. It didn’t see us at first and I was telling my friend where it was and describing what it looked like. I don’t know if she saw what I could see that day (maybe I should ask her, we are still friends after 45 years) anyway she either did or she was playing along. The feelings of awe and panic got the better of us as the creature sensed we were watching seemed to grow denser and blacker and larger and started to move a bit quicker in our direction. We both bolted back across the field as fast as our legs would carry us.
Writing this down, it would be easy to dismiss it as my wild imagination but I know it was not. Then as now, although I have a vivid imagination I know the difference between what I project in my imagination and what is out in the world. At least, I think I do, we can all be fooled.
I wonder where I could walk to hunt Shadows close to where I live today, the fields near my parents house are still there but that’s 300 miles away from where I now live. There is a piece of common land not far from my house so I set off on a new expedition, along the rows of little terraced houses, through the grave yard, across the meadow that’s filled with blue flowers in spring. Till I reach the edge of the where the wilder places begin.
Ivy plays sentinel to the gateway of paths, tangled tree roots make steps down through the trees where Jackdaws chastise and Crows answer in low melodious caws. Out into the open space of common land, at least what is left of it.
I find myself on the edge of construction site, what happens to the Shadows when the wild spaces are gone.
Enticed by a circle of bright green ferns under the dark leafless branches of sleeping trees, a fallen tree lay, I sat and looked down over the view of our small sprawling town, how much bigger will it get.
There are tracks up behind where I sit, I decide to follow them.
Something caught my eye, shiny white and sparkling in the light breaking through the trees. Three little jewels attached to a dead tree stem. My instinct said that’s where to find what your looking for, my brain said its just some plastic caught or put by someone. It looked like the stem had been decorated for Christmas in the winter light. As I got closer it was three ivy leaves still wet with the morning rain glittering in the sunlight. I smiled to myself but beyond this illuminated signpost was the kind of gnarled old hedgerow I would expect to find Shadows dwelling. In the darkness between the leaves my mind saw the face of the Green Man sleeping but it was just an impression and although I waited and watched a while I neither felt nor saw any entities.
I did not find any Shadows that day, only hedges where they might dwell.
On my way back I followed a badger track clambering over and under the trees and came across a swing tied in the branches of a tall tree and sat again, deciding to head into town.
I found the route I would normally take blocked by the construction of new houses, another path lost. I had to follow the line of the high security fence back, and lost my bearings. Heading back onto another badger track and not knowing which way to go, sudden movement caught my eye, as a dear jumped along another path ahead of me. I followed and found my way back to the path I came in on.
Contemplating my little adventure I mused.
As the wild things are chased away by the ongoing urbanisation, the Forgotten Magic of our childhood is chased away by the trappings of our society. There are little pockets of wildlife left hemmed in, the badgers and foxes and dear surviving in an ever decreasing spaces. Our Magic is there part of us always, it just get hemmed in by life but we can make new pathways, opened up and rewild ourselves.