On October 19th, I had one of those moments that I will remember, those moments that are permanently tattooed into my conscious. I went to the Enchanted Forest and I felt enchantment.
Still, I know enchantment is not quite the right word. Now, as I write, I am trying to find a way to describe that feeling on that night, but I know words cannot adequately describe how I felt in the moment. As a writer, I come across those memories from time to time that are seemly impossible to find words to place on the page. Going to the Enchanted Forest was one of those times. Alas, I will try my best to describe my experience in the Enchanted Forest, in hopes that someone who reads this can feel the enchantment that I felt in the moment.
For starters, the Enchanted Forest is an annual outdoor light and sound show in the woods outside the quaint town of Pitlochry, Scotland. It is about a two hour drive east from Aberdeen with no direct public transit. I would never have even considered going if Aberdeen’s International Centre didn’t offer a greyhound bus ride there.
Still, I was hesitant to sign up for the trip. I was afraid it was going to be another commercialized event, and I wouldn’t enjoy it. I am one of those people who sees fireworks and does not see joy, but rather sadness as a by-product of the environmental pollution. I was starting to feel that way with Christmas lights as well.
About eight years ago, my mom, brothers, and I started a tradition to seek out the best holiday lights around the nearby neighborhoods. We eagerly buckled our seatbelts to begin our adventure, comforted by the warmth of the car. As we drove around, I remember passing a house with a large snowman, then one with the glowing nativity, then finally two houses that seemed like they were competing for the number of inflatables in the front yard. For each house, my brothers and I reviewed and rated the lights along the way, pretending we were exterior decorators. I thought the monochromatic silver twinkling bulbs were the classiest.
Surprisingly, I’ve still held the same design opinions for the next eight years as we embarked on our Christmas light drives. I’ve still loved silver lights. However, my attitude towards these excursions slowly changed. I started to get carsick on those rides. I’ve had more homework to do. More stress. Our drives became longer every year and we would drive for hours to find the best light shows. Most of all, I started to feel visceral pain for energy wasted on our drives, for the energy wasted powering the energy-saving LED lights.
For me, the holiday light traditions became more burdensome than enjoyable. I didn’t want my negative energy to infiltrate through the compacted car. I begged to stay home, and some years my wish was granted. I didn’t feel like the best sister or daughter, but at least I wasn’t a spoilsport.
As I reflect on those moments, I realize that my memories about Christmas light drives has shifted in a large part due to learning more about the environment. I’ve had the privilege to attend the Environmental and Adventure Middle School, take AP Environmental Science in high school, and learn in two college classes about environmental degradation. As I currently study away in Scotland, I feel very conscious of my energy expenditure. One of my daily mental struggles has been balancing travel and carbon impact. As much as I want to blissfully enjoy all of the sights in Scotland, I can’t help but feel a little guilty of all of the transportation and energy I consume. I was hesitant to travel two hours to Pitlochry only to see the Enchanted Forest for an hour before returning to Aberdeen. After weighing personal enjoyment to energy waste, it seemed like a net-negative impact.
Despite my doubts of not enjoying it, I succumbed to the enthusiasm of my friends who were going. It was one of those times that I really have to thank peer pressure for allowing me to share a new experience with others.
On October 19th, I apprehensively got on the greyhound bus to the Enchanted Forest. It was a two hour drive of uncertainty. The street outside was decorated with garlands and gold twinkling lights. It was the epitome of the small town during the holidays in a Hallmark movie.
Pitlochry was cute, but this was not the anticipated destination. After waiting in a short line with our Enchanted Forest tickets, my friends and I hopped onto the short ten minute bus ride to the Enchanted Forest.
We sat down, the lights went out, and we heard a windchime on the bus’s sound system. With an enthusiastic “welcome”, Sally Sparkle, our recorded tour guide, gave a couple of disclaimers and wished us a fabulous time at the Enchanted Forest. Normally, this type of thing would make me cringe a little inside. Instead, I was entranced by the magic of the voice and became so excited to enter this forest.
It was unlike what I felt on Christmas light drives with my family. This was new and novel again.
When I got off the bus, I was a kid. I was transported into a forest that looked like Candyland at night. Every single crevice was filled with color and music. And I didn’t know what to do with myself. I wanted to run around, yelling to look at these lights and to those lights. I also wanted to just sit down on the damp earth in front of me and stare at the majestic trees.
But, I did neither of those things. I slowly walked towards the forest path with an uncontrollable smile. Inside my head, the statement, “this cannot be real”, was on repeat.
This is the emotion that is almost impossible to describe. I can say it was enchantment, but that doesn’t do it justice. Maybe childhood wonder. Just see a photo of my expression to see for yourself.
I was stricken by this feeling and I couldn’t let it go. I could have sat and played with lights forever. Or even simply watched the lights.
But it would be a misconception to think this magical feeling was solely attributed to the lights. It was a combination of my friends’ enthusiasm, the spirit of the community, and the colorful scenery. And the trees.
The trees. I barely start to talk about the trees. The light bounced off the branches, revealing the ridges on the bark. The trees were glowing in a humble way. In the Enchanted Forest, there were no inflatables, no candy canes, and no decorations. It was just the lights and the trees, the combination that makes the shadowed beautiful.
I’ve been to Disneyland, but I’ve never felt magic like this before. It was a connection, and empathy for nature. I appreciated the trees in a way that I’ve haven’t felt before. I felt the trees provide the fresh oxygen for every breath, for every step to continue me on my way.
For about thirty minutes, I was in this state of curiosity and awe. Then, I felt a wave of ideas start to form and I knew I had to pull out my journal. I opened my journal and words began to spill on the page. I wrote while I walked. I wrote while I watched. I wrote while I thought.
It is incredibly hard to read what I wrote in my journal. I am currently in the process of transcribing it to make it readable. I’ve captured some fabulous ideas, theories, and reflections. As much as I want to share all of my ideas with y’all, it would be a disservice to my ideas. Like a good cheddar cheese, sometimes my writing just needs time to age before I can get my best writing. I will say that much of my journaling has lots of dissonance between consumerism and nature, and includes several social theories to promote personal attachment to the environment.
I’ve been thinking about this experience for days now, and writing down ideas almost every day. I am looking forward to learning what connections I will continue to make as I reflect.