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Judith Linders

Columns, essays, stories

Woods

There is no place I would rather be than in the woods.


Woods have a special place in my heart.

Just before I was born my parents moved to a little village in Germany, in the Weserbergland. I grew up with hills and woods. I still remember how it feels to kick around in a big pile of autumn leaves. How steep the path was to the restaurant where we would drink hot chocolate after a long walk. My love of woods started there. When I started photography it wasn't long before I was exploring woods. My town of Nijmegen is surrounded by a varied landscape and at St. Jansberg I found a place that is very similar to my birthplace: woods and hills.

But my, isn't it difficult to take good photographs in the woods! I hadn't expected that. When you stroll through woods you see how beautiful they are, but don't notice so much that they are really chaotic. When you start photographing there, that soon changes. I was disappointed quite often, when I discovered I hadn't been able to translate the beauty I saw into a one dimensional image. It took me many trips to Jansberg and lots of practising before I took my first satisfactory shot. Today I have even shot some good photographs in chaotic parts of the wood. But those shots were years in the making.


Beautiful chaos in the woods

Despite the frustration of shooting sub par photos I kept going back to Jansberg. I didn't go there just for my photography. As I said, woods have a special place in my heart.

Jansberg is a very varied wood, with coniferous trees and a great diversity of deciduous trees. It is a relatively quiet spot and sometimes I will wander for hours without meeting other people. Then perhaps a fox crosses my path. "Hmmm, a human, what shall I do now?" That fox, with its swagger that slowly strides past me, only to disappear into the shrubs like lightning. What luxury in our overpopulated country.

I tend to close myself off from the world, with its noise and stresses. But in the woods my sensed opened more and more. I hear more, I see more, I smell more.

When is the last time you smelled the difference between a conifer and an oak tree? Do you know how cool the trunk of a beech tree feels? Can you see even the slightest movement from the corner of your eye and discover a tiny mouse rooting around in the leaves? Have you ever heard the ruckus a herd of wild boar make?

I learned that by roaming there for hours. My connection to the wood grew stronger every time I visited. There is no place I feel safer and more at home.


In the woods I feel sheltered and at home

Woods are also where I regained something I had lost long ago: my imagination. As a child I had great imagination and my world was mysterious and magical. So much seemed possible. I loved adventure books with giants and enchanted forests. When I grew up I lost that. After all, wizards don't exist. And neither do fairies.

But sometimes in the woods the sun lights up secret spots that usually remain in darkness. In those moments I can hear the wood nymphs laugh. I have found my enchanted forest. And with that, great happiness.


Sometimes I hear the laughter of wood nymphs

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