“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived”
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden.
When I first found out I was going to Stockholm, I imagined getting lost in vast Nordic forests. Around me there were pine trees as far as the eye could see. The occasional moose or deer was my only company. No sounds but the crunching of leaves beneath my feet or the birds singing as they meander through the sky. This (one of my favourite quotes) ringing in my head as I wander through the wilderness. The words make me think – why do I go to the woods?
The nature that Stockholm offers has been a big part of my time here. Every day I go for a walk through the forest, which is only a short distance from where I live. It helps me mentally, rather than being a way to get exercise. It is my time for reflection. Most people reading this will just see a forest and think I’m looking into it a bit too much. I have to disagree. For me it is a therapy. A time spent with my thoughts.
As the leaves from tree branches knock against my yellow umbrella I think of my loved ones back home. I miss them but I know I’m here doing something I have always wanted to do. I think of my friends and what they are going through. I think of all the ways I could possibly help them even though I’m not by their side. I think of past conversations from a time that seems forever ago. I think of the people I have met and the people that I am going to meet. Their reflections staring back at me from the puddle I step over, to avoid getting my jeans wet. I think of my family and with that the memories of us sat around the table drinking wine, beer and vodka while we listen to music. I think of how whenever I hear those songs I’m taken back to that moment. I think about what I am capable of doing for other people. As some nearby ducks ‘quack’ to each other, I remember that I am running out of toilet paper and cheese.
As a breathless jogger rushes past me I think about yesterday when there was a bird in my kitchen. I hid behind my plate until it flew out of the window. I remember times where I made a fool out of myself when I was drunk and cringe. I remember moments where I laughed so hard I snorted and my cheeks ached afterwards. I don’t forget the times I cried so much I couldn’t breathe. As I stroll through the multi-coloured botanical garden I imagine what my life is going to be like in a year, five years even ten years. Not only what my life will be like but the peoples around me too, will they still be in my life? I think about where I have travelled and wonder if I will ever return. I think about how the sunset bathes the city in warm colour and that I don’t understand how people like red wine.
As I stop to tie my shoelace I think about big ideologies: Racism, xenophobia, homophobia and how my writing could potentially change the world one day. I think about receiving the Nobel Peace prize for literature. I imagine many different scenarios, the countries I could live in, the jobs I could have, the life I want though this usually changes on each walk. I think about things that may never happen. As I sit by the water watching the rain send ripples across the surface, I think about having nothing to care about at eight years old. Still travelling the world at twenty five, and being settled down at forty. How I hope that you will one day forgive me.
As I watch a family of deer eat grass I think about how much I don’t want to cook tonight. I think about how much it amuses me when I see someone picking fruit from a nearby tree. I think about how much I have grown since coming here, in such a short space of time. How it both scares and excites me at the same time. As the wind starts to turn my ears cold I wonder what people think of me, am I a good person in their eyes? Or am I naïve, someone to be pitied for caring too much.
As my shoes start to become dirty from the mud and the dust I think about how I’m in something totally bigger than myself. How we all look up at the same sky but from different places and each with different thoughts, although these may overlap sometimes. I forget the things I don’t want to think about because they are for another walk. As I pass people fishing I think about diving into my notebook the second I get home. I write these thoughts down because they are more part of me than anything else.
So, that is why I go to the forest