Venturing deeper into the forest, you consider its varied and fragrant aromas, the soil and the wood, offering a mingling of scents, some heavy, some sour, others light and sweet. Earthy smells, combining, both stale and fresh, young and mature.

A melting pot of oak, beech, spruce and pine, deciduous and conifer, where the rotting bark and branches of the fallen lay stale, damp and dry, half hidden between the standing, now overgrown with fern, bracken and rogue bramble.

Occasionally old wooden bones crunch and crack beneath your feet as your boots press into the ground, where with every step you’re unsure if your feet will find the sprung sponge of fresh leaf mold, or the soft carpet of shed needles, else the uneven hardened ridges of half hidden roots.

And you’ve never cared for the paths of others, favoring to stumble between the trees, to be among these silent sentinels, beneath the interlocking arms of these watchful guardians, their limbs confidently stretching upwards, and outwards, the tips of their branches crisscrossing, laden with new leaves that bleed with dappled light.

Venturing deeper into the tangled heart of this primeval forest, your outline hidden among the umber-brown and the ancient, you listen closely, hearing their creaking confessions, feeling their wisdom and their age surround you. Steadily breathing, with a woody incense, their essence rising from centuries of cast down branches, snapping and rotting silently underfoot.

You reach out with your open hands, steadying yourself as you trip, feeling the variations in their outer armor and how firm they stand, alive against your palms and fingers, steady and sure, untroubled by your stumbling.

Their bark covered skins, some gnarled and wet with sequestered rain, where deep rough ridges, as dark as mud and dry cracked clay, are furred with fatted moss. While others are smooth, dusty and dry, powder coated in lichens of green and grey.

And such stubborn roots, stretching out, spread-eagle, snaking across the ground, twisting like the petrified remains of a slain hydra. The damp air bringing more acrid aromas, a mix of sour berries, tart fruits and nutty mushrooms, a gritty earth, broken open and wet with old rain. You’ve arrived at the very heart of the forest.

Overhead, a cloudless sky rests gently on the trees, a golden-azure-blue of unencumbered light bleeds through, stained with chlorophyll and dripping down in between the branches, mottling the trunks and roots with the brush of Georges Seurat.

Your eyes held open and failing to settle, as the light and shade plays before you, exchanging places, intimately dancing. Then catching your attention with a curious glinting. An intense hook of silver, causing your eyes to crease as they narrow, sharpening as they’re drawn to the shimmering.

You step forward, incredulous yet intuitively suspicious, your eyes drawn downwards, keen as any magpie, to where at the base of a heavy trunk this reflected speck of light glints relentless and needle sharp, as if caught on a single sequin.

Stooping closer you crouch down between the gnarled, humped backs of two enormous roots and curiously consider what on earth might be the culprit for this trick of the light?

Sitting on your haunches, your fingers scratching at the soil, feeling the dark, damp dirt, cling underneath your nails, as you soft claw and scrape away the surface, revealing the first few links of a thin silver chain, a necklace you assume, your curiosity growing more and more excited as you carefully scrape away the earth.

Continued…