But I’m trying.
I go for what I think are “long walks in the woods,” but these are only long when I’m with company. If it’s just me, I’m in and out in less than half an hour–unless I hit a parking lot. The forest has a parking lot for all the car owners who want to take long walks in the woods. The problem is I keep on somehow finding myself in the parking lot as if this is where I belong.
The other problem is: it kind of is. I am comforted by the sound of passing cars and oncoming traffic, of rubber on asphalt. I need the white noise–actually, the clatter and bang–of the city to soothe my senses. This should change in the coming months, seeing as it’s already been two and not much has happened. I might still get shocked when I repatriate, but who even knows. I miss Manila everyday, but it’s also nice to be so close to so much of this nothing and everything.
Since I was little, I’ve had a completely irrational fear of trees that is connected to my trypophobia. Show me a lotus pod and I will freak the fuck out. Show me oddly textured bark and I will probably be able to make out a face and that face is SCREAMING IN AGONY. I took this deep-seated fear with me when I moved to the castle in the forest. It followed me to Gerlingen, a small town 40 minutes away on foot, through paved roads and well-lit stairways.
A 20-minute alternative to this long route was presented by Google one evening, and I took it, not knowing it would mean walking through THE FUCKING FOREST. Sure enough, my GPS conked out somewhere down the nonexistent road, but I tried to soldier on for another ten minutes. Ten minutes in and I felt the trees and their faces looking at me. It was dark. I was alone. It had just rained. It was not a good time to be lost, terrified, and unsure of the obstructions along the way, so of course I turned back and effectively turned what should have been at most a 40-minute walk into an hour long trek.
Germans have a special relationship with the forest, though. This I learned from my friend, Florian, who I ran into on the way back from that first trip. Unlike me, with my need for clear objectives and human traffic on the way to and from anywhere, Florian was just wandering aimlessly after having not left his studio for almost a week. To him, here was the forest, an institution in itself worth protecting, and also a space of immense privilege. “How lucky we are to be able to enjoy nature,” the forest seemed to say to him–and to Germans in general.
There was outrage when humanity began to encroach upon this precious greenery, and there were concrete actions in place to try to save it–both from us and from itself. While here, I’ve learned that most of the logs I see on the sides of the road (because of course there is an actual paved road running through these German forests) were felled to preempt disaster rather than to harvest their innards, as a reminder that even the natural world is a controlled space. Which is strange, but it makes sense in terms of living in harmony. What is it, after all, to fell a few trees for the benefit of the forest–and the people who walk through it.
That was supposed to be a joke. But I really don’t know. What do I know about the forest.