For all the photos I share from this walk in beautiful light – this post from the start of this year springs to mind – there are also plenty of walks that look like this: grey, sullen, damp, dreich. And it’s easy to look at photos like these and feel that this place is a bit depressing. The fallen woodland of John Muir Country Park looks heavy in this light, in this weather. It feels heavy. And perhaps it begs the question, why share these images?
The transition from the long days of summer to the abbreviated days of autumn (and winter) is always a tough one, right? I miss our evening walks more than I can explain. They were the grounding part of my day, and also the uplifting part. Our time to get outside, to drive down the coast and walk below big skies. To watch the lads run and sniff. To exhale out the day and those tight hours spent at a desk. To let our eyes soak in wide vistas after too many hours at a screen.
I could smell the scorched earth and wood before I saw it. We were walking at John Muir Country Park a few weekends back, on a warm Sunday, and we’d decided to take the reverse route to our usual loop, walking along the side of the woodland that faces onto the salt marshes. I’d paused to take a video of a view through the trees on the edge of the woodland as the sunlight was catching the grasses in the breeze, and as I moved closer I thought, what is that smell? I knew what it was, but why… why could I smell burning?
Sometimes I’ll be chatting to someone and they’ll say exactly what I’ve been thinking but haven’t really put into words. And this was the case when I posted the above photo on Instagram last week and my friend Mattijs commented with: “It’s still a bit post-apocalyptic there, isn’t it?”
There’s always been something special about this place after the rain. In the old days, before Storm Arwen, the woodland felt heavy with rainwater, each individual pine needle of each individual pine branch holding a droplet, together making millions and millions of droplets of water gently held aloft by this wood. I always admired the way the tree trunks were blackened by the rain. It gave this woodland a different hue, a different mood; quiet and still and heavy and beautiful.