The Gentle Fern

The Gentle Fern
Small and delicate
Watches over the river beside me

Not like a night watchman might, you understand
More like the gentle consideration of a mother to her child
Concerned, not suffocating
She guides the river as it weaves along
Past her, past banks of green meadows and moss-lined rocks — boulders from another time
A time when life was gentler, like the fern
When we lived together in communities
With genuine concern for each other’s welfare
Helping each other with food and shelter
Not in the least concerned with the latest iPhone
Or Netflix series
Or fence.

The Gentle Fern
Is a relic from the past
One of the oldest plants on Earth, did you know that?
I wonder how long she has watched over this river
And seen folk on the other side
Those who have sown grass seed and cut it so short and neat and tidy so that the light shines in, always
Neat and tidy so that it doesn’t vex the visitors who tread heavily on their way to a swim or a picnic or a romp
On the other side there are no boulders to step over
No branches to duck under
Just a neat field with trimmed trees
And no life.

But this is Dartmoor, I cry!
As I sit here, on the scruffy side
Beside my gentle fern
Here, there is no neat grass
There is wildness
Here, there is no place to sit but a muddy patch of ground beside the river
But here is life, oh, so much life!
There is richness
And there are boulders to climb over and branches to duck under
And moss and lichen and darkness
Places where the trees and their spirits gather to talk about life
And the passing of the days
And the networks of mushrooms that grow beneath their feet
And of sugars and water
Of floods and drought
Of the blindness of humans — their days are numbered they say, these trees
Unless they change their ways
Unless they begin to see
That the wild side
With its boulders to climb over and its branches to duck under
Is a better way than the neat and tidy grass across the river bank

And as the otter climbs up and out
Wiping the remnants of some plastic bottle from her glistening tail
She too nods her head in agreement with the trees
It is no good on the other side! She exclaims
Where the light shines endlessly in
And the grass is cut oh, so neat

Better here, she says
Where the light fights its way through the thick, glossy undergrowth
Where no one brings their phones, or their plastic bottles
But instead sit amongst it all
Just as I do now with the darkness and the light
With the trees and their spirits
Hoping for a future lived in harmony with the mosses
And the mushrooms
And networks of water and sugars that lie beneath
And the boulders to climb over and the branches to duck under
And the Gentle Fern beside me
Watching patiently over the river.

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FRSA. BCorp. Founder of @ThelifeAdv & @HappyPrizeCo, SelseySeaBathingSociety.com, WonderBreath.co and ForestBathingMadeInBritain.com

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