Haibun: Explorers

A memory for the dverse picnic prompt. We weren’t great picnickers. There was always some small catastrophe. This was the first picnic we went on after we moved to Picardie and got our lovely 1973 Series III Land Rover, one of the original South African station wagons.


First foray into the countryside in the old Land Rover for our little city kids, they lurched in unison as the lane meandered then petered out into a track, and the forest enveloped us. Nowhere looked like the sunny, glade-dappled woods of picture books. We were intimidated by the dark, moss-hung mass of it. We piled out into silence, picked out way over fallen trees, feet sinking into sphagnum moss and sundew plants. Jays screamed. We walked through tall green silence, Papa striding on ahead carrying the youngest, the rest strung out in an uneasy line, until number three sat down by the side of the path, tired, prepared to sit there as long as necessary. Number two, almost hysterical screamed, We can’t leave him there. The wild boar will eat him. We made out way back to the Land Rover. Children huddled in the back to eat the picnic, peering out at the silent trees, peering through the slanting light, looking out for wild boar.

Forest darkness

a living silence growing

cell by green cell.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

57 thoughts on “Haibun: Explorers”

  1. Your woods seemed to be a rain forest; moss-encrusted and such. A wonderful memory; thanks for sharing.

    1. It felt like that. It isn’t particularly wet up there, but it’s low-lying with lots of surface water so the undergrowth is semi-marshland. Old and untouched, a lot of it.

    1. It marked all of us. I’d never been in a deep silent forest before either, but I was intrigued. The children, little parisiensn were petrified. We lived there for nine years and they never liked going off the (very well) beaten track.

      1. We used to often ride around the countryside, but rarely drove into the forests because of the hunters. We didn’t know then that there was a season when they’d be out in force and ‘civilians’ don’t go into the woods at all. Gangs of men and women dressed in camouflage army surplus gear with big guns and lots of dogs. They acted as though they owned the place, and since they had the guns, we tended to agree. But even when they weren’t there, the children were frightened of the monster wild animals they might meet.

    1. There was nowhere else really. The trees stretched up out of sight cutting out the light, the ground was just decaying trees and bog plants, ponds, puddles and very very quiet.

  2. wow! you never fail to entertain Jane! i loved the exclamation from the third child, always the serious and thoughtful one, you captured more than memory, you shared what family is all about, through thick and thin and dark and light.

    1. There reactions were so different. The third one wasn’t frightened really, just tired. He was fine about sitting on a rotting piece of tree until we came back for him it was his sister, the four year old, who insisted we were all going to be murdered by wild animals. It never got any easier with them either. perpetual city kinds 🙂

      1. describes my kids perfectly, city kids who can drive through horrendous traffic but squeal when they see a spider!

  3. City slickers in the forest. Doesn’t always go as nature-romantic as planned. Reminds me of this past weekend I drove through the countryside to a nearby village for a market, and my daughter kept asking me if its safe the entire way there. Won’t do it again. 🙂

  4. Just wonderful, Jane. I know you were all scared, but it’s funny, too (the way these moments often are when told later)–especially the line about the boars.

    1. They’ve always been funny about wildlife and completely ignorant. The youngest called all birds either parrots or penguins and all animals were either dogs or cats. She’s not much better now.

      1. The entrance to the local museum where we lived in the north was flanked by two four foot high bronze imperial eagles. The youngest always referred to them as parrots. Hook beak=parrot, straight beak=penguin. Simple.

      2. It’s so funny because I don’t imagine parrots or penguins were that common where you lived. Hawks and sparrow or something like that, I could understand. But I’m imagining lots of penguins shuffling through the forest. 🙂

      3. I think she got all her natural history knowledge from picture books and they tend to be short on hawks and sparrows. You’d think she’d have recognised cows though…

  5. Oh I love this recounting. Great description but mostly I love the reaction of the children! Dark moss-hanging woods can be very scared to little ones! 😊

  6. I enjoyed this memory, Jane, and am familiar with small catastrophes that seem to plague us too, especially on days out in the wild. I especially like the idea of being enveloped by a forest. I can understand the fear of wild boar, though, I’m wary of domestic pigs! The haiku encapsulates the silent threat.

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