Ever wondered how it feels to be a bird? Yeah, me too. Trouble is I’m a bit acrophobic, how do birds cope with peering down? Early October I found myself in this beautiful forest. I think I maybe even ‘found myself’ a little, and I didn’t even need to go to South east Asia!
It got off to a rocky start as things so often do. Two days before we left I was due to go and photograph the Mérens horses being bought back down from their summer pastures as part of my ongoing project. But the pain in my wrist was unbearable by now so I went to the emergency doctor. Brace fitted, no driving etc etc. The brace itself caused a lot of pain as my anatomy and mind had to reboot themselves. Off we went to Spain, with me feeling physically hurt, emotionally tender and a bit of a moody bugger.
17 metres up, the highest treehouse in Europe, deep in the forests of Gorbeia in the Basque Country. I was absolutely terrified of climbing those stairs, only one hand to cling on to the rail. Up I went slowly, never daring to look down. And then I reached the top. I swear I heard a choir of angels. I wish I had words to describe our treehouse, but I can’t find them anywhere. Just imagine this: a wooden hut suspended on metal cables in an ancient pine tree. It sways with the wind, in harmony with the rhythm of the trees protecting it. A wall of full length windows give you an aerial view from the huge and comfortable circular bed. No electricity, no wifi, no phone signal, no running water. Just the sound, sight and breath of the forest is almost too much too absorb, anything else would be unnecessary, distracting, annoying even in any case.
Our breakfasts are bought round to us in a jeep, a basket tied to the rope at the bottom of the steps and we haul it up on a pulley. Fresh tomatoes, olive oil and garlic with bread and fresh juice. We are provided with flasks of hot water and coffee, dozens of candles and an oil-burning open fire. A compost toilet, a bowl and jug of water and handmade lavender soap for washing.
The nearest village of Otxandio, a square where children play while adults have late summer drinks outside, and we use the little grocery shop.
Back at our nest high in the trees, we light the candles and fire and sit on the wraparound balcony eating chickpeas smothered in olive oil and garlic, drinking Rioja and looking up at the brilliant stars twinkling through the canopy, no sounds but the breeze in the trees and the owls. Perfect, simple and so good. I can’t even take many photographs – I’m using a tiny point-and-shoot with colour film, and the fully auto Canon for b&w I can use one handed. I also take a few with my phone but really I’d rather just be. Ya know?
No more feeling anxious and vulnerable. I do some yoga flows on the balcony, there is one tree in particular I try to mimic, so rooted, tall, straight and strong. I want to be like that. I can look down now, no trouble. I love to watch the little brook that runs alongside the trunk, and sorry to be icky, but I spit my toothpaste down enjoying watching the white blobs descend until they disappear. You could shout at the top of your lungs and listen to it reverberate. Being cradled in this living, breathing sanctuary, you become part of it and feel the tranquility descend into your core. I arrived feeling broken, and I leave feeling like I know how to mend.
Nikon 310 | Fujifilm 200
Canon EOS 500N | Kodak Tri-X 400