TEXTS THE UNFORGIVABLE, THE REMORSE AND HISTORIES ABOUT THE SILENT FOREST BY LINN CECILIE ULVIN
The unforgivable, the remorse and histories about the silent forest by Linn Cecilie Ulvin accompanies the exhibition Wild Tree by Vanna Bowles.
She has come some way into the forest and slows down. On both sides the fair young spruce trees are towering into the air. The lighted ski-track stretches into the landscape, between the trees and across the hill before it continues to wind up the ridge. They have walked there together several times. She turns onto a path which leads in another direction. Her best dress is wet and sticks to her thighs. Her heart is hammering in her chest. She walks slowly along the path and tries to get her breath back. The rain has stopped. She opens her jacket and looks around. The purple colour stands out against all the green. The bees are already out after the rain and are flying across the heath. Further ahead the trees are denser.
She steps out from the path. She moves cautiously through the heather while being careful not to touch the bees that are humming along her legs. She walks over to a leafy tree and grips the narrow trunk. It’s like holding onto a cold, cold arm. The arm of a person who has been too lightly dressed outside as the air has grown cooler. She rests for a while against the trunk before she continues to walk. The ground is moist, and it grows darker as she walks in under the pine trees. The auburn pine needles from last year cover the ground. The branches sweep the fabric of her raincoat, and the loud sound is powerful in the stillness. She stops and looks around. There’s no one else here. She’s walking within the world of the forest. A world it’s good to live on the outskirts of, or go for walks in. A world where you don’t know what you’ll stumble upon if you move far enough into it. Her heart is beating as if it were in a hare’s body. Her mouth is dry. There’s certain to be both lakes and open spaces here, but the trees could just as well be so densely packed that she may lose her way. She feels like laughing. She’s thirsty. She puts out her tongue and licks water from the collar of her raincoat. The matt surface of the raincoat feels smooth to lick. She stands like that and thinks about what would happen if she lost her way. It might take a long time before anyone finds her. She just has to keep going. Rather that than meeting someone. That must not happen. At least not now. She looks around. Maybe that’s what it’s been like the whole time they’ve been together? That she’s always been on guard, while there really wasn’t anything to fear? She looks around. She has never been in this area before. What if she doesn’t run into a single soul for weeks? She cannot expect help from anyone in the forest. If she needs help, she must go back the same way she came. But she can’t go back. Not now. Now everyone knows about her infatuation. What would she do in town? Stagger around the streets on her own?
More and more often she is forced to stop and walk around a large rock or change direction. In some places it’s too steep, in other places the brush is growing so densely that it‘s impossible to make your way through. Her hair gets caught in something. It’s pulling on her hair. She turns her head to try to get loose. A few strands of hair are entangled in one of the branches of a pine tree, and a tiny piece of twig is left in her hair as she keeps walking. She looks back. A few torn-off fair strands of hair are hanging in the tree. Someone might discover them some time, if they found themselves lost in here. The forest wants her. Wants to hold her tight and hide her inside it. It’s getting dark. She has found a new path, but it’s unlikely to be used by many people. It looks like an old animal trail. She’s breathing heavily, but tries as well as she can to follow the trail. It begins to be more difficult to see. She’s out of breath. It’s best to follow the path for a while. The forest is denser now. It’s colder too. Her naked feet look luminescent against the dark ground. She keeps walking and can’t stop thinking about how it would look if everything had been left untouched the way it is here. The forest would continue to spread throughout, the trees would grow taller and more powerful and the thicket would draw together. The bushes would wrap their branches around each other. The same thing would happen under the ground. Among the roots the survival of the fittest would reign, until they finally formed huge tangles. No human being could get into such a forest. It would be impassable. Impossible to move. But no one would worry about it, because no one would ever walk in such a forest. She stops, and stands for a while, bending forwards a little until her breath slows down. Then she straightens her back and fills her lungs.
- No one shall walk here anymore!
She shouts as loudly as she can. The sound disappears among the trees. A few birds shriek in the distance, otherwise it’s silent. She continues to walk while she’s trying to breathe calmly. In between she feels a tickly shiver down her spine. But slowly the cool air is drawn into her lungs, and in a way the cold clears her head. She’s breathing easier. A bit further in front a huge tree has fallen down and is lying across the path. The roots are spread out in all directions. Stones have become wedged between the various arms of the roots, and a sort of red earth and something looking like thick, grey mud have been pulled up when the root was loosened from the ground. She lifts up her dress and makes a roll of the fabric which she ties across the hip. Then she swings her leg across the tree trunk and sits down on it, before she slides down on the other side. Her skin gets scratched, but it doesn’t matter. On the other side of the tree the path becomes blurry. Further away it looks as if it disappears altogether. She crouches. The best thing she can do is to feel her way with her feet, she thinks stands up and continues to walk. She’s dizzy. She hasn’t eaten for a long time. Further ahead it becomes really dense. Trees and bushes are caught up in each other as if the intention is that people and animals should be stuck in here. It becomes more and more overgrown, and she has to use all her strength to keep the branches away. It’s impossible in the long run. The wet twigs sweep across her face and make sticky stripes against her skin. She crouches down and makes herself little, and bent over in this way she manoeuvres slowly forwards, bit by bit.
After a while the forest opens up. Here and there leaves are swirling around in the wind. She glances up. The trees are breathing. The grass is moist, and the moss gurgles when she steps on it. But it doesn’t last for long. Once more the trees are tightly packed. Beneath them her feet crunch, and they sting, but at least it’s dry. Her wet feet are covered by pine needles and dead foliage. She crouches again and moves forwards, two or three metres at a time, always from trunk to trunk. It becomes increasingly further between the tree trunks, and thank God for that. Her foot aches from the cut she got earlier in the day, and the bushes have made scratches across her skin. It stings and itches, and she has to wipe away things that keep sticking to her. A break would’ve been great, she ponders, and stops and squints to see better. It becomes lighter further ahead, doesn’t it?
Suddenly the forest opens up above her so the sky becomes visible. The light almost blinds her, and she stands and stares. She sees a small, open clearing. The moon is rising. A bright hemisphere is visible above the layer of clouds, and the strong, white light stretches down between the tree crowns. The damn scrub. She pushes aside what she hopes are the last branches for a long, long time, and after a couple of stumbling steps she’s out in the clearing.
She is surrounded by a wall of trees, and now that she’s finally standing here, it’s already difficult to see where she came from. Dead tired she searches for a flat surface and lies down on the ground. It smells of earth and dry leaves. Here she will rest. Here where the autumn foliage has piled up and the leaves are soft beneath her body. Snuggling up to this withered, dead foliage. Her eyelids feel heavy, and her eyes are smarting. She lies still and listens to the sounds, disappears for a moment, she’s almost asleep. The tree tops sough, and she can hear birdsong not too far away. Her body is so heavy. She has not felt this calm for a long time.
She is woken by a pricking in her neck. A mosquito has put its sting in her. She squints, can’t see it, but hears it flying away. She turns and sees the little insect-body flying off, heavily loaded with blood. She can’t help thinking it’s good to be rid of it. She turns over on her side. Next to her a few yellow flowers are growing, which have not yet shed their petals. She lets her eyes slide shut. Something that feels like an ant or a beetle crawls up her thigh, and she leaves it alone. After a while she can’t feel it any longer. She breathes calmly, no more racing hare-heart, no sudden twitches in her body anymore. She draws her feet under her and pulls her dress over her legs. She’s going to be in this forest until she grows old. She can’t help smiling at that thought. Now and then she might move out of it, have a look at the people who live in their houses, glance at the lights in their windows, but that would be all.
Translated from the Norwegian by May-Brit Akerholt.