Nicola’s Story – of private and group forest therapy

A path of discovery 

I walked in lost and came out found

A year and a half ago I lost my human oak tree, my artistic mentor.  I had collided with Ralph when I was studying as a Theatre Designer, when he came to lecture us one day. He had just turned 80 yrs old, he brought an experience of life, design and art greater than anyone else and a wealth of stories and advice, timeless in their manner. We connected instantly and brought laughter and joy to each others lives. He saw in me an artist that I daren’t believe was there, but deeply hoped was true. Over the next 14 years, we worked together, spent priceless time with each other and he guided me through some tricky career situations and more importantly people situations.

He managed to mentor me in a way that I always came round to the answer my own questions without ever feeling as though I had been told what to do. He listened, replayed a similar encounter in his career or life with no clear explanation as to how it applied to me, and then, without realising it, I’d see which way I needed to handle the problem.

When Ralph passed away I felt such a loss, We had adopted each other as honorary grandfather and granddaughter and he had carried my confidence for so many years. 

Being an artist is an exposing career choice and one that requires a lot of self belief. For so many years I had relied on Ralphs confidence in me and my skills, as reassurance that I was worthy and able to do this. And when he passed… I just didn’t know who else would believe in me in such a way. My family are outstanding in their support, but they aren’t fierce critics or truth tellers, they are blinded by pride of their daughter and unwavering love and aren’t of the industry.  Don’t get me wrong – I am not disregarding their opinions and support for me. But they have a motive. Ralph didn’t have that. My success didn’t have any impact or reflection on him. He was and still is, one of the worlds best and most influential Theatre Designers and Artists of all time, and he just enjoyed humans in all their failings and struggles and rawness. My success was just a gut feeling in him and so he simply helped by being there.

My reliance on Ralph was stripped and I finally had to find my own belief in myself. And it wasn’t easy. Emotionally and creatively lost, I was worried about how my career would develop from here. And that’s when I came across Sam. Honestly, I didn’t KNOW what Sam would be able to do for me, but my gut screamed out that I needed to trust her and go with it. I book a solo session with Sam. 

During my solo session, Sam invited me into the forest. This sounds simple, but the process was more complicated. Emotionally I had to leave the hang ups and negative chatter behind and open my mind to potentially experiencing something new, yet not forcing it. Sam had the key to slowing everything that was whirring round in my head, and I trusted her to guide me through this next stage. 

What happened in the Pinetum forest was hard, raw, emotional and yet this unfurling occurred. I found space, and trust and I felt ‘held’. Held, in the presence of these wise elders that stood strong, towering above and witnessing yet another mortal-wavering-soul that let themselves be seen and guided, to their truest thoughts and expressions. In this safe, non judgemental zone I had the freedom to throw questions up between the branches and see the thoughts that flutter back down as genuine and unbiased realisations that I’d had inside me all along. The quiet meant that I could finally find my own true thoughts and beliefs. From feeling so lonely and lost I was suddenly surrounded by Mentors. The key was space, pace and peace. I finally found ‘the quiet’. 

After a few months of practicing finding my own peace and ridding the negative chatter with regular walks in our local woods, I decided that it was time to go on another walk with Sam, but this time as a group.

This session was quite different but absolutely wonderful. To be in a space with people who were also setting out with the same intentions was powerful and highly supportive. There was a gentle energy that wove its way around the group and promoted a social support network. We were guided by Sam, sent off on our own, called back and allowed to share if we wished and as we got into the swing of natures rhythm, we opened up. It was fabulous to hear the things that others were noticing. I noticed how easily I slotted into the session, a real healing had occurred for me. I walked in and found myself welcoming trees with warmth as if they were old friends. They had seen me through such a big step in my life, I was excited to be in that space again and to see what would happen next. At the end I was invited to talk about my solo session and before I knew it I was in tears, not of sorrow but of happiness, to be able to talk of Ralph and to honestly feel as though my dear mentor was now in every living thing, and that whenever I needed him I could just trust that he was there for me in one form or another. The biggest development for me was finding my self belief. Essentially, we are the only ones that hold the key to our happiness and success, and with the right surroundings we can hear those decisions clearly.  Letting go of the sadness of not physically having Ralph around me anymore meant that I could finally realise that he is now everywhere I need him. I have now picked up his belief and I am now in charge of my own success as an artist and as a human.

Had I not have trusted Sam to show me where and how to do this, I would not be where I am now. I have grown and I am eternally grateful to Sam and to the forest, and to my dear Ralph.