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It might just be a good time to look down....

Whether your seasonal festivities have been magical and restorative wholesome family occasions, or something further from that ideal, there might be a time when the busyness is over and you are left with a sense that there are also things going on quietly (or noisily) deeper inside you. I’m going to offer an extra name for this Yuletide/Post-Christmas period. I want to call it Mycorrhizal-Time, because it seems to me there is much to learn from what is going on on the forest floor and with the trees and their root systems. I want to offer this especially to anyone who is feeling pretty sure they want to hibernate under a duvet for the next month and a half.

“Mycorrhizae and root hairs are abundant and active in winter. Our tree concept must be expanded to include these facts”. - Dr Alex Shigo. Biologist and tree pathologist. 1930-2006

The mychorrizal network, which I do not pretend to be an expert on, is the way that the undrground threadlike mycelium networks that produce fungus, also symbiotically resource the roots of trees in a healthy established forest. The fungus offers the tree water and nutrients, and the tree offers the fungi sugars that it made during photosynthesis. Its why, when the visible parts of the deciduous woodland treescape are presenting their stark skeletons, we can be quietly confident that these trees are still getting what they need, even as their once lush green leaves lie fallen and rotting on the ground. Indeed - because of this!

(The stoic evergreens of course continue to do their thing notwithstanding! And i will mention them again later).

Here's Dr Alex again, who is often now remembered as a father of modern sustainable forestry practices:

"Every system must rest. ...Dormancy is usually thought of as a period of rest where processes essential for life function at a minimal rate. Dormancy does bot mean stopping!"

On both an archetypal and a psychological level, in the northern hemisphere, this part of winter can constellate as hard, because energy levels are naturally low, the climate is physically dark and cold and damp, and wildlife appears largely absent and barren. Indeed perhaps this is why so many of our seasonal festivities and celebrations focus on fire, and heat and the light. On casting out darkness and overcoming it. Yet these extremes of conjured light cast their own shadows, and, once the bright tinselly whirl is over, or, sometimes even in the midst of it, some of us might be being asked to go quietly in, and to check our inner re-soursing - our own mychorrhizal network. This can sometimes be experienced as an abrupt ‘come down’ from the party - a kind of outwardness hangover. Or it can be a gentle and self-respectfully intentional use of the time between now and the new year, when life invites us outwards again. Like an extended Sunday mindset: A Yuletide mindset!

I was also taken by these words, spoken to me by a dear friend recently:

"I like the idea of being in a mycelium patch. Fungi do most of their growing and making connections underground, hidden away from sight - and the mushroomy bit on top, magnificent as it is, barely begins to tell the story" -Roz Tandy. writer and artist.

If any of this is also speaking to your current condition, my invitation to you is to walk in deciduous woodland nearest to you over the coming days and to explore this imagery and metaphor of going down and inward, and see what it offers you. Rather than avoiding any inner invitation into Mycorrhizal-Time, go with it and see what you find there. Let yourself imagine into the quiet and the underground, trusting that its going to nourish you just as much as the external ever did, and maybe more so.

But I also want to offer a caveat here. In this woodland story, you might by this point be identifying more with the Evergreen than the Deciduous tree. You might be a person that is wired in such a way that you are pretty consistently re-sourced all- year round, and these seasons of inward and outward aren’t really such a feature of life for you. Indeed you might find yourself picking up the slack for the more seasonal humans around you that are flagging at the moment. Please know that this is noted and noticed. And later in this series of blogs i would like to focus on the Evergreen for exactly this reason: We are not all the same. And if this is the case for you, when you are out walking, please enjoy reflecting on the constancy of the companionship of the holly and the ivy and the pines, cedars, spruce and mighty yew too. Your steadfastness is seen and celebrated in the woodland treescape too!

If you find that exploring the trees through these means of felt sense and archetype and metaphor is for you, you may also like to journal with some of the questions below. I'd also like to link you to my book, Take it to the Trees, currently available in many countries worldwide. (if it's not available in yours, please let me signpost you to the nearest one to you).

Mychorrizhal- Time reflections.

A few things you might like to journal about or reflect on while you are in the forest at this time

  • Am I more like a deciduous tree, with these cycles and needs to shed my leaves and go within and live in cycles, or am I more like an Evergreen, constant and stoic throughout the seasons.

  • Can I recognise these differences of traits in others around me too? Does this offer me something helpful in my relationships?

  • Can I let go of some of my external concerns for a while, and trust they will still be there when I come back to them, and may have even taken care of themselves in the meantime?

  • How might I draw on the natural evidence of this being a good idea. What is nature saying to me on this walk? Use all your senses to attune to its gentle but attention seeking symbolism. The skeletal leaves, the visible roots, any fungus and rotting wood? Your sense of the ground and what is underneath.

  • Photograph or note or sketch anything that speaks to you. You might like to collage or journal with this later.

  • Now I have drawn back from the topside outward world a while notice over the coming days what is happening inside me that nourishes and supports me at this time.

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