So much more

Why are forests the setting of so many of our stories?

Forests are shelter. Plant and animal food. Habitats. They hold rivers and lakes and a cool retreat from the sun. But they are so much more.

In children’s stories such as Hansel and Gretel, and the woods of Narnia, forests are the place where children meet their greatest challenges. In adult literature, the forest can be a landscape of the soul; a place of reparation and peace … or a Gothic immersion.

The forest’s physical environment; uncertain light, disorientation, and unseen entities hints at threat and entrapment. The familiar grown strange. The worldly alongside the otherworldly. Where we can return to the wild to restore our psyche, or face our fears.

The leaf-littered ground can be our sense of Australian Gothic. Take a walk and sit among the karris. Listen. Shut your eyes and just “be” in the tall timber and undergrowth. If that country is not a temple, or cathedral, or primeval life-force … then what is?

Images: Loretta O’Sullivan
Shannon National park

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