The Thirty-First Leaf

After replacing a few shoes today I went into the woods to seek a peace. The meeting with the Bishop from the other day has left me in a horrible way. I have no idea what to do. The King has been acting strangely, yes I can see it too. But I know his grief is real, it moves between us, into my own heart. But in the woods, silence is a strong herb. In the woods I can see ... music. And that which I can hear is as a story. And finally my peace, for in that sacred place of strong medicine I see myself, and I am of the story.

- Sorren

The empathy that this servant feels toward his King is touching, but strange. He claims to actually feel his pain. This may be sympathetic magic at work. I pray that I am mistaken. More distressing to me is his assertion that the woods are a sacred place. There is nothing sacred about the woods . . .on the contrary, the woods are frequently said to hide the pagan gods and pagan spirits, and the use of the word sacred betrays the servant’s true feelings. The woods are alive with serpents and demons and all manner of hellish phantasms. Sorren best stay away from these places if he be wise.
— M

No, I do not believe that Sorren is being melodramatic. I take him at his word that the pain of the King goes through him as well; this is a symptom of a form of love that is all too common today, even to the point of being better termed, an illness. Sorren, in my estimation, is a man of honor, and honor to him is more important than the temporary pain he may feel. What most interests me is the reason why this should be so. One has only to remember that it was the King who taught Sorren how to read, and his mind was unlocked with this new power of liberation. Sorren is grateful, and so he should be.

But his retreat into the woods is curious. Many writers have written about enchanted forests, and forests that have an awareness, this is nothing new. But in Sorren’s time, phenomenon such as this was not even questioned so certain was its belief, and the terror of the forest was the terror of the unknown. The forest is a place of uncertainty, of unexplainable forces, and of danger, for the forest is old and retains traces of memory from primal, antediluvian times like an endless reverberation, and even as it is systematically destroyed, the presence, the oneness, remains unchanged. But the forest is also beautiful and tranquil. There is a consciousness, a soul that can sometimes be heard, and sometimes be felt. I have experienced this beauty, this uneasiness in the forest on my hiking journeys. Yes, it is peaceful, but it can quickly turn frightening, and the feeling of being watched, closed in, can be overwhelming. I have experienced this as well, so when Sorren talks about the fear of the forest, I know exactly what he is talking about, and it is not simply the fear of being lost.

Things live and grow within the forest that are better not known, for there are some things that should never be known and are best to remain hidden. And sometimes the sound of the forest is best heard as a warning. Even in these modern times of cell-phones and GPS satellite technology, dozens of persons are lost inside of the forests of the Earth every year and are never seen again, disappeared without a trace or corpse. At one time, during the Middle Ages, the forests covered most of the continent and were wild, unexplored, and home to every kind of danger that could be imagined. Folklore is filled with stories of these unexplored, vast tracts of wilderness that are like an ocean, because the imagination needs a place to work, and so these spaces were filled with all the fears of the subconscious mind. The forest was a threshold behind which another world of weird, supernaturalism existed.

But I believe that the sound of the forest is heard within our own mind, it is fearless and it is relentless, and the sound is different for all persons, because the sound, the music, is constructed within our mind, detached and separated from reality. And like an instrument that is tuned to an unfamiliar key, the forest gives up its song slowly, gradually, as one penetrates and brushes against its mechanism. That is why this feeling of uneasiness grows and only becomes manifest the deeper one wanders inside. A walk through the woods can be wonderful and tranquil, but to become lost is a harrowing experience. This is what Sorren is talking about.