I had no idea a simple stroll in the wood could be such a reminder of courage, loss, love, and the value of community.
“Have you heard about the trees and the carvings”, one local asks. “Trees? What trees?” Before he can answer, the conversation moves on to something else as is want to do when the Mojo team is amassed. A few days later, someone else mentions “the trees” with relation to WWII and U.S. troops. I’m curious, I want to go see them but there is always so much to see and do, will we fit it in?
Alun mentions them as well, so now we really do want to try to see them but sadly can’t seem to find the time amidst all the activity of our October trip. It’s now February, Alun and I have picked up the Mojo call and are roaming the area for interesting tidbits of sustainability and ancient history.
He again mentions Ramsbury and we decide it is the place to go. It will be a beautiful day for a walk in the forest and we can find the carved trees, which I now know are called Arbor glyphs.
Ramsbury is a lovely little village located in the Kennet Valley. As we meander down the roads to our destination Alun describes what the scene must have been like back in the WWII era.
The now-empty land was filled with Quonset huts, military equipment, aircraft, and the pristine land became dotted with airstrips. It’s hard to imagine really. We park and begin making our way up the pathway into the woods. The sun filters through, the day is really beautiful and chill, birdsong is chorusing through the trees.
Halfway up we begin searching the beech trees for carvings. At first, finding only the occasional modern-day engraving, I begin to wonder if we can actually find them. Will they really still be here; finally, Alun gives a shout that he has located some just off the path.
I’m not sure entirely what I expected to find; all I know is that as I stood and looked at the engraved names, pictures (one of an American flag), and thoughts of ‘home’, I was overtaken with a somber and reflective air. What was it like for them here as they waited and trained? Where were they from? How many made it back? Where are they now?
My fingers traced the moss-covered markings, imagining the woods filled with quiet activity, laughter, the joking and jostling that young men do when they are in company. I tried to imagine what it must have been like with the sounds of war all around the landscape, while villagers and visitors alike tried to have some semblance of daily life amidst the chaos that was thrust upon them. It felt important to pay some private, internal homage to the sacrifices that so many made in so many ways; sacrifices that many of us in later generations can’t really imagine.
And so I stood in the mist and the dappled sunlight, hands pressed to the trees, heart open to the veils of history and time; offering humble thanks to the courageous.