Into the forest: A thicket of calm and chaos

By Dael Sassoon

Under the canopy of any forest two principal elements reign in perfect balance: calm and chaos. If you’ve ever found yourself in a forest free from people and far away from the rumble of the city, whether it was a woodland just outside your home or deep in the thickest jungles of the tropics, you might know the feeling of this staggering dichotomy.

It is a feeling you can only appreciate when you stay perfectly still, because even the slight crinkling of a waterproof jacket can disturb the experience, echoing loudly in the quiet yet bustling forest.

As you sit on a moss-covered log for a break, with your feet tired and your back slightly aching from the heavy rucksack, you realise the sound of the wind up ahead making the leaves clatter against each other in the branches above.

A bird sings, a rustle in the fronds. A wood thrush lands on a nest above, tending to the small chirping creatures that await attention.

The metallic trickling of water rushing a few yards away suddenly joins in, gurgling its way past you, nourishing the forest.

You look beside you, and you see things you didn’t notice before. A beetle burrowing itself in the crispy fallen leaves, its thin bristly legs scattering along the fertile ground. An army of ants busy working away, carrying nibbles of leaves and other insects up a tree. Although small and seemingly noiseless, the world of the hustling small creatures is relentless and hectic.

The fresh yet musky smell of the damp ground and wet wood becomes stronger.

The melodical song of another bird arises from another end of the canopy.

In the bush behind you, something hastily rushes through, making you turn around in an instant, heart rate skyrocketing. Nothing is there, and the calm reigns the forest once more, although you know you’re not alone.

As you look around and take a sip of water, the light has slightly changed. Shadows have moved. New leaves have fallen and… wasn’t that plant smaller a moment ago?

To some, forests might seem like uninteresting locales where inanimate trees await to be cleared by the hand of the urban human. Yet, these seemingly quiet settings are nothing but chaotic in the best of ways. It is easy to ignore how busy forests are when we are solely focused on completing our hike or taking our dog for a walk. It only takes standing quiet for a few minutes to realise that, just like us, the forest is continually changing, perpetually growing.

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