In the Heart of the Woods

In the Heart of the Woods
“If Light is in your heart, you will find your way home.” ~ Rumi

Feeling lost in the world,
I leave my phone behind
and head for the woods.
Sheltered in a landscape
where no one can reach me,
I sit upon a fallen trunk,
sinking down, soul to soil,
on reddish-brown leaves.
As the weight of my heart
draws the Goddess Ma’at,
I pick up a white feather
and fear its consequences.

Before entering the wood,
I circled it seven times,
just like I did as a child
when meeting my first tree.
Each day I would stay out
for as long as possible,
while towering immortals
rose up and held me.
Not able to trust the world,
I took the wood far and wide,
it came to school most days
and in it I grew up, safe.

For once inside my wood,
with its magickal elders,
birds, fairies and flowers,
the grief of my heart
was eased by Mother Nature
and all her children.
In the heart of the woods,
a green and beautiful land,
I sat and escaped
the heaviness of my life,
moment by moment,
waiting to be born again.

As a child I wanted to climb
to the very tops of trees,
learning when young
to suffer the necessary cuts
of ascent and descent.
There I let my heartsong
rise up and descend
each marvellous branch.
I have taken my worries
to the woods all my life
and today is no different
after the death of a friend.

“How can I lighten my heart?”
I ask the oak beside me.
But he says nothing,
nor do the beech and elm,
the robins and squirrels too.
All silent and me a friend,
a fellow woodland creature!
All birdsong comes to a halt,
even the trill of insects stops
as I give up questioning,
until I spot a wood pigeon
staring down at me.

Suddenly, like a dry leaf
falling from an autumn tree,
I watch the bird drop dead
to the woodland floor.
I weep all the way home,
sad, lonely and lost,
no longer following a path
in my dusty pilgrim feet.
The day drags itself on
as I count down the hours
until I can fall unconscious
and rest my heavy heart.

The pigeon returns in a dream.
Leaning in closely he asks,
“Did your path have a heart?
Make for a joyful journey,
walk your heart with love
reconcile your heart,
take it deep into the woods,
let the woods devour it.
Find the Green Man within,
whose heart will set you free.
Fear not the loss of life
or the devourers that gather.”

“Light up, light up!” he coos,
sat in his feathers of truth,
“This world, our world is light,
it will always be light,
and light shines everywhere.
There is you and there is light,
how will you shine yours,
wild little poet?”
In a dirge of loneliness
I sing to the wood pigeon,
“I’m a poet, I don’t fit in,
only the woods are my friends.”

“Then come out of the woods,
open the eyes of your heart,
set the fledgling poet free.”
He tells me he has flown here
from the Meadow of Light.
“If you to visit this meadow,
your heart will become light.”
I sleep and search
for this meadow within,
yet all I find are steep climbs,
foul smelling swamps
and rivers too fierce to cross.

On waking at first light
I return to the woods,
call the green-skinned Osiris
and offer him my heart.
The last thing I see are trees,
like a fortress of nature
surrounding me,
encircling my soul in silence.
My feathery heart lifts up
to the great open sky,
“Light up, light up!”
I hear the ageless wood sing.

As I transcend my grief,
hover over a vast world,
a profane, sacred space,
the first thing I see is light,
light everywhere.
To reach this meadow
one must re-member Osiris,
and the weight of one’s heart,
follow the ancient laws of life.
Step back to that time
when the child we were,
split off and was left behind.

“Come out wild little poet!
Let your pen rise and fall
to the rhythm of my feet.”
I watch her descend the beech.
“Meet me at the roots” she bids
“where body and soul meld.”
We entwine, heart to heart,
two ecstatic wanderers
on a path of enlightenment.
We are born again.
My heart, light as a feather,
dances with joy in the wind.


Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2018
Image is my own, taken in Avebury.

22 thoughts on “In the Heart of the Woods

  1. What an exquisite way to start my morning–a morning when I’ll release seven Monarch butterflies after the light grows stronger. As you know, I’ve been dealing with the mystery of death without as much as grief as I’ve felt in other deaths. Although I felt more relief than grief, my sons grieved for their grandma who always loved them. I experienced their grief–and I remembered. Maybe the grief hasn’t hit me yet.

    “the grief of my heart/ was eased by Mother Nature/ and all Her children.” I know this perspective so well, dear Deborah, although I learned it as an adult, not a child.

    I love how the trees taught you about the wounds of ascent and descent. And then “Find the Green Man within…” Since He is my Saviour, I love that you know him, too–so close to Osiris, a God I’ve read about but can’t say I’ve met in a deep way. Thank you for words about Maat and weighing of the heart and the finding of Light. I feel lifted after my mother-in-law’s ripe death, a lightness in my heart, no regrets in my behavior toward her. I’m ready to have my heart weighed for this one.

    You obeyed the soul-call of your heart. The wild little poet came out with her pen and wisdom and shared her initiation with me/us. Thank you again, dear poet, dear friend. I’ll remember the girl in the woods for a long time.

    1. Thank you so much Elaine for your wonderful reply to my poem. Transformation feels ripe for the month of September! I have enjoyed following your butterfly stories and photos avidly all summer, immersing myself in their mysteries … and have thought of you often this past week my dear friend, trusting that the cremation has gone well and your sense of peace steadily grows and evolves in your beautiful, en-light-ened heart … after all those compassionate yet tiring years of caring for Virginia.

      The woods to me as a child were a safe place to stay in, and hide out in. Climbing up to the very tops of trees was something I loved to do. I would often sit up there and write stories in my head, imagine I lived in the tree, creating new realms. They were places I could sing in freely and explore in depth. Then somewhere around sixteen the magic of the woods disappeared and didn’t come back until I had turned forty years of age … still the number seven has always felt mystical and magical to me.

      Thank you once more for gifting me such deep karmic wisdom re answering the soul-call of my heart … that is such a beautiful poetic description! Only another poet would write such graceful words! Thank you for believing in me Elaine, and for sharing the lightness of your beautiful heart. Love and light, Deborah.

  2. As someone who loves to be in the midst of the woods, I found your descriptions of being there sublime. It intrigues me too that while the forest itself didn’t answer your question, it inspirited your discovery of the truth.

    1. Thank you so much for your rich, reflective reply! A warm welcome to my poetry and Jungian thought blog. In a few, clear words you’ve unearthed the kernel of this poem … for the woods, although I love them consciously, represent here my journeying within. Blessings always, Deborah.

  3. I feel refreshed and inspired Deborah whenever I read your poetry no matter how otherwise or weighted I may be feeling before – you go to places with such vivid imagery and depth that touch my soul and reminds me that I have one. Every time I feel grateful and blessed to bear witness to your pen. The weight lifts.

    Yesterday (it seems a life time ago) I saw snow on the distant mountains when friends brought me back to my sister’s home from an outing in the morning. I went for a walk alone later on – I wanted to see those mountains from the ground and try to photograph them. I knew I’d be walking on quite a windy road and that there was bound to be a gap which there was and I took a few photos. Returning, I got lost in the suburbs. I could have phoned my sister – but everything was so pretty and green I trod on just enjoying it all – thank you Poetess. I love the comments too. Thank you for the link. Will check it out in the morning –

    Love Susan

    1. What a beautiful reply Susan! Thank you so much for your unending support of my soul journey with words. Believe me when I say there is no greater compliment to give a poet than to say not only have you have read their words but they resonate too! Sweetest joy!

      Your lovely reply comes in the form of a poem itself! As I pictured you “lost and found” on the path of your heart in a beautiful green space, holding the tension of the opposites. Marrying up words and images is one you do so well in your Garden of Eden! I shall look forward to seeing and reading more of your journeying in the weeks and years to come.

      I only came across the story of Ma’at last week and fell in love with the tale immediately. A feather is a great metaphor for the lightness of one’s heart … and would you know, ever since I discovered the story the sky seems to be delivering me small white swirling feathers ever since. In woodlands, there were always there, but now they’re everywhere!

      Love and light, Deborah

  4. What a wonderful poetic tale of embracing woods and nature to transcend the mess life’s rollercoaster ride can create in one’s mind Deborah.

    I too visit favourite trees and woodland areas as my escape from the busyness of life and to find ways of reconnecting with my true self. In fact, on reflection, I have always done this. As a child growing up in London, wild areas were in the minority but I was lucky to have a golf course, with woodland and a fast flowing brook running through it, a short distance from my home. I would sit under the warmth and safety of a weeping willows’ canopy as I watched fascinated by the newts and frogs in the brook, I was hidden from the outside world and all of the troubles it brought me. Here I could find a true connection to me and now when I visit the woods I feel I am returning to it again – it’s a kind of feeling of coming home and reuniting with my own creativity and that child that use to sit under the weeping willow all of those years ago.

    There…well isn’t it funny how one poem can bring this all back and make it all so clear. I can so readily connect to your story – and it is one that is so beautifully crafted as well. Thank you Deborah and wishing you a continued happy journey along your woodland path.

    Btw – what is the story of the Goddess Ma’at?

    1. Thank you so much Sophia for your wonderful reaction to my poem and for sharing your own poetic childhood memories of sitting under that weeping willow canopy. What a picture you paint in words! I’m so pleased that you love the woodlands too. In recent years I notice (because I’m also buying the books!) there’s been a huge return to nature, whenever I’m out walking instead of seeing perhaps one other person in the woods or walking through access land I see many people. In recent years authors like James Rebanks, Robert Macfarlane, Simon Ingram, Rob Cowen and John Lewes-Stempel have all inspired me hugely, let alone old favourites like Nan Shepherd, J A Baker and Alfred Wainwright himself! My book shelves are fit to bursting with this latest nature loving literature and remains, alongside my beloved poetry books and rich Jungian volumes, my greatest reads.

      Briefly, the story of the Goddess Ma’at and her feather of truth goes like this … (excerpt taken from Wikipedia). Here’s a link if you want to read even more about this Egyptian Goddess.

      “The Weighing of the Heart

      In the Duat, the Egyptian underworld, the hearts of the dead were said to be weighed against her single “Feather of Ma’at”, symbolically representing the concept of Maat, in the Hall of Two Truths. This is why hearts were left in Egyptian mummies while their other organs were removed, as the heart (called “ib”) was seen as part of the Egyptian soul. If the heart was found to be lighter or equal in weight to the feather of Maat, the deceased had led a virtuous life and would go on to Aaru. Osiris came to be seen as the guardian of the gates of Aaru after he became part of the Egyptian pantheon and displaced Anubis in the Ogdoad tradition. A heart which was unworthy was devoured by the goddess Ammit and its owner condemned to remain in the Duat.[28]

      The weighing of the heart, pictured on papyrus in the Book of the Dead typically, or in tomb scenes, shows Anubis overseeing the weighing and Ammit seated awaiting the results so she could consume those who failed. The image would be the vertical heart on one flat surface of the balance scale and the vertical Shu-feather standing on the other balance scale surface. Other traditions hold that Anubis brought the soul before the posthumous Osiris who performed the weighing. While the heart was weighed the deceased recited the 42 Negative Confessions as the Assessors of Maat looked on.[28]”

      Once again thank you Sophia for your most kind-hearted reply! After reading the above mythological tale I nearly called this poem, “The Weighing of the Heart” but felt I needed to include “Woods” in the title. Hmm, perhaps I’ll save that title for a future poem. Love and light, Deborah.

      1. Thank you for sharing that tale Deborah – it is an interesting take on why my heart is lifted when I enter the woods or walk in nature and it feels like it is as light as a feather. I suppose the trick is to keep those woods or nature around me wherever I go to help me live a lighter, more balanced life!

        1. You’re welcome, it’s an amazing story! I also find intense solace in the natural world, I always have. At the end of my life, I would love to die outside, feeling the breeze or sun on my face … listening to birdsong in a wood or garden, witnessing the beauty and grace of flowers, hearing a blackbird or robin call to its mate. Now, that would be the best way to go … and after death, my loved ones would scatter and return my ashes to the earth. Until then, I’ll carry on pulling on my walking boots and wandering on up and down, and far and wide over this beautiful island.

  5. Feeling at odds with the world and the people in it, I visit woods regularly. In fact I’m going there later today to sit and write myself a poem!!! Thanks Deborah for the idea and inspiration. You know with this one, I’m doffing my cap to you fair poetess! Love to you both. HF

    1. Thank you so much for such a warm and generous reply Henry! Enjoy your morning walk dear poet and do listen out for the poetry bird … she’ll be there looking down! When I was a teenager I would visit different woods to sit, (and climb!) and write my despairing verses in. I had forgotten how much I loved doing so until recently. Hmm, now there’s an old writing habit to revive! The beach is one of my favourite places too. Love and light, Deborah.

  6. It’s always a pleasure to read your work Deborah. Your mystical poem takes my breath away with its gentle and exquisite message to ‘open the eyes of the heart.’ A poem within a poem, a dream within a dream. I agree with picasso, there’s so much going on here – poetry, mythology and transcendence all deftly interweaved. Thank you for introducing me to the Egyptian Goddess Ma’at and her feather of truth. I doubt whether I’ll look at feathers quite the same. All the best, Anna.

    1. Thank you so much Anna for your rich reply to my poem. I first learnt of the Goddess Ma’at last week when a friend shared with me the story of her “Feather of Truth.” Mesmerised by this divine tale and my deep love of woods a rather long poem began to emerge a couple of days ago. Yesterday, don’t laugh, whilst finishing this poem I even climbed up a huge oak tree to re-member how it felt. This time I was happy to come down quickly as I feared the thinner branches might break and I’d break an ankle or two! Ha-ha! It was all good fun though and the woods yesterday were incredible! Yes, finding feathers may never have the same meaning again … hmm, the weight of the heart may come to mind. Blessings and warmth, Deborah.

      1. Btw I enjoyed your Rumi quote, here’s another you might enjoy.

        “Everyone is so afraid of death, but the real Sufis just laugh: nothing tyrannizes their hearts. What strikes the oyster shell does not damage the pearl.” – Rumi

        1. That is a great quote! No wonder they call Sufi’s the sweepers of the heart! Ha-ha! I shall remember this one next time I climb up into the heart of a tree. xx

  7. Superb poem full of compassion and love for nature. I’m so looking forward to diving into your second collection.

    1. Thank you so much Mariquitta for your lovely response! Please know that your kind-hearted words greatly encourage this poet to scribble on and continue dreaming about writing her next collection. Blessings and warmth, Deborah.

  8. Dear Deborah, there is so much to say and I don’t know where to begin. A poem of true being and transcendence that needs to be read and read again. Pure inspiration.

    1. Thank you so much Picasso for your wonderful reply. I know! With 144 lines it’s a bit of a longer read, much like when I wrote my poem, “The Shepherd’s Daughter” … the verses just kept coming! It’s always wonderful to see your footprints here dear poet. Hope all’s well with you and that your poetry is richly flowing. Love and light, Deborah.

      1. Deborah, I enjoy long poems. The length is not the problem. The problem is trying to respond at the same time as feeling bowled over. Yes, it’s that good.

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