Whattaroll Journal: One With the Forest

“The greatest gift from fate is probably the possibility of being one with the forest on a daily basis,” says editor Adrian Norbert Cuper in this deep dive into his memories inspired by his photo walks in the forest.

Nobody really knows how old the forest is. Most of us have a strongly imprinted image of a forest that has been standing in a given place for a long time and does not change much. The forest grows into the psyche no less than into the soil on which is planted. There are also those who remember planting a forest. They remember how during the communist time, whole families went to the sandy, barren wastelands where they were handed out shovels and hands full of poor pine seedlings.

Pine likes such places — dry, inhospitable, bitterly cold in winter, and scorched in the summer. On this virgin territory, pine begins to build its kingdom. Nobody can stop it. Well, maybe another seed dropped by a bird, but that must also take some time to take root. Inch by inch for several years, the pine unfolds a broom of green needles in each side, sweeping the area around itself. After meeting the branches of the neighboring pines, the pine launches all the needles upwards. 

The pine tree is the queen of the Polish forest — not the oak, as some stubbornly claim. Maybe, the oak, a relic from the ancient times, looks impressive and grows for hundreds of years. But the pine is not much behind with its longevity, and is certainly more beautiful than the oak. Malicious people say that when planted in monoculture, the pine is a threat to the environment. That it attracts pests and does not shelter large animals. Perhaps, they do not know that the pine moth and the dandelion moth would also like to have their own corner, and the pine provides them with just that. Pest — what a disrespectful term.

The forest is a great source of memories. It gives us the rustle of trees, the smell of resin in the summer, and damp ground in the autumn. Its sights, sounds, and smells take us in our imagination to places and people that may have been long gone. Or, maybe, these places and people have changed so much that we are happy to remember their recent or better versions? 

The forest not only gives, but sometimes takes from us as well. However, it is so fleeting that we do not even notice the damage to ourselves. The forest needs man, just as man needs the forest. It always welcomes newcomers, hence its popularity among Sunday walkers and morning runners. Hard-working ants clean the paths, the grasses take care not to accidentally grow under the feet of passers-by, and the branches reach as far as possible to shade the forest paths for people. The forest likes visitors. However, the greatest gift from fate is probably the possibility of being one with the forest on a daily basis. 

When we grow up or live in the countryside, we can cross the green border any time to plunge into the past (or maybe the future?). The forest is eternal, suspended in time. It exists far from everything that man has imagined, from the cities he has built. The forest gives way to man, but it will never allow itself to change. It is always the same because there is only one forest. But the global forest is divided by humans into small tufts by concrete, farmland, and highways. 

No matter how hard we try, the unity of the forest cannot be completely destroyed. That is why we call it collectively “forest.” We do not have to specify which part we choose to go to when we leave the house. We just “go to the forest” and it’s the same everywhere. Everywhere in the world it gives the same relief and arouses the desire not to leave it anymore. To not go back to concrete, steel, or asphalt. To stay in it, be one with it, and collapse into the litter. To grow with the trees, rustling in the wind and catching the sun’s rays together. 

Adrian Norbert Cuper
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Born in 1988, Warsaw-based Adrian is a portrait photographer, photography teacher, and co-founder of Whattaroll Magazine.

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