In Praise of Stillness

How often do you really sit still in the woods?  If you are a woodland owner, I’d guess it isn’t very often.  There is always something to do.  You can always see something that needs your attention, particularly during winter, when all the woodland management work needs to be done.  There are always brambles and elder and bracken to be controlled and cut back, coppices to cut, log piles to stack and to dry, paths and fences to maintain, trees to plant, hedges to cut and lay and repair.  If you are into woodcrafts, there is always new green wood that needs attention.  And if you are keen on wildlife, there are nest boxes to clean out, seed feeders to top up, wildlife trail cameras to check and maintain, and sites to prepare for photography. 
Then again, even if you do none of those things, there is the relentless urge to move.  We are told we must “eat well, move more, live longer” – the slogan of the Change4Life programme.  Being sedentary is seen as being wrong in some way.  We are even being encouraged to fidget more as a way of staving off an attack of flab (it is now called Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or NEAT).  Yes, seriously!  We are urged to activity from every angle.  Don’t just take a stroll, take a brisk walk!  Get your heart rate up!  Make yourself breathless!  I am as guilty as anybody of encouraging people to do this, being a qualified fitness instructor myself. 

People like me sit and fidget.  We don’t watch the TV, we watch the TV and do knitting or embroidery.  We don’t sit down and enjoy a camp-fire in stillness and quiet, but we whittle a stick, or carve a spoon, or use a bat-detector, or sing, or toast damper, or poke the embers…the list of fidgety activities is endless. 
I find I really have to make time and take trouble to be still, but when I do, the rewards are immense.  Enjoying, as I do, photography of birds and other creatures, you have to learn the art of stillness, for unless you sit still and become one with the surroundings, they will not trust you, or come close, and you will not get those special pictures.
So it was, yesterday, that I found myself sitting still.  Yes, I had my camera, but I was completely still, on a pile of rotting logs.  Still and quiet, I sat without moving and the rewards were immense.  As I deliberately stilled myself, I started to blend in with the surroundings.  I felt connected to the place and time in a very special way.  Peacefulness washed over me.  I lost the stress and care of the day (even though I knew there were jobs to be done).  And the little birds came.  Just a few at first, flying past me, or looking at me from a distance, and deciding whether they could approach a little bit closer to get to the feeders.  Before long, they were flying by so close I could feel the wind from their tiny wings against my face.  They would come and sit only a meter or two from me in the bushes and posture, sing, or just eat the seeds they had harvested.  Just for a few minutes, I became part of their world, feeling the air, hearing tiny sounds, aware of the little mouse that was running around by my feet.  My world and theirs connected in a way that was beyond visual, or auditory.
A walk round the woods is good.  Exercise is good for you.  Fidgeting can be very productive.  But every once in a while, it is great to take time to be really and truly still, connect with the world around you, use all of your senses, and find peace.  Next time you are out in the woods, try it.

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