Oaks and Pig Tales

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Down in the woods, autumn is breathing her frosts and mists across the leaves and grass. Bracken is turning orange, the beech trees are golden and copper leaves and nuts lie strewn across the forrest floor. But among the oaks, you would hardly notice her presence. Their leaves still flutter green in the light, and the grass around their roots is lush and soft.
We wandered in the warm whispering breeze among the pools of shadows, becoming vaguely aware of a presence. A growing feeling of being watched was creeping up my back, and looking to either side of the path, hoping to see some glorious mushrooms, I began to notice dark scars in the grass. A growing sense of unease had my nerves tingling, as the earth looked more and more uprooted. Then a dark shape shot out from the bracken crossing the path behind me, trailing snorts in the breeze.

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The dogs suddenly glued themselves to my calves, and as we turned the corner slowly, we saw the scattered herd of wild hairy pigs, bathed in late sunlight. They were happily truffling and snouting the earth, oblivious of our presence, and I sneaked closer under the cover of the oaks and the bracken, but the dogs were jumpy. They were restless and uneasy, and then from behind another group led by a huge black sow, came swaying down the path. I retreated slowly at first, but with a gathering pace, as I was escorted back out of the ancient oak woods, by this mama and her piglets.
The size of the pigs was what really surprised me, even the babies were bigger than the dogs, and they certainly used their presence to state clearly that this was their spot.

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I had last seen these pigs, enclosed at the other side of the woods in late spring, and they were tiny and cute and full of wild squeals. Now their brooding presence was filled with strength, and the dogs were very nervous. It was lovely to stumble upon creatures who had been at home beneath the oaks far back into the shadows of history, but I was left with a sense of awe and respect. Hearing them snuffle and snort among the whispering oak leaves felt right, like a sound I had heard a million times before, and yet it was new for me.It was as though nature had reclaimed some space, pushing back the civilised edges a little, leaving the woods feeling less predictable and a little dangerous. I probably won’t be sitting dreaming away hours in the shade of these old oaks again, at least for a while, as long as the pigs are calling it home, but they add something glorious and wild which makes my heart beat a little faster.

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Ancient guardians of the woods, linked with immortality, death and the dark earth mother herself. Held sacred by Druids, hunted by kings and feasted on from giant cauldrons, pigs and boars have myths and symbols reaching far back into our past. From the shadows of night the moon and her boars have long guarded the earth.

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About greenmackenzie

Hi, I'm Seonaid, and I share my home with my husband, my son and a collection of cats and dogs. I am forever snapping shots of things which catch my eye. I love art which is here now and gone tomorrow...like food and nature...but also have a passion for vintage and the ancient past! Nature is my favourite muse, with her wild ever shifting seasons. I have been using and teaching mindfulness and relaxation for over 12 years, and have yet to become any sort of expert :-) I'm a Psychotherapist, and run the Maggies Highlands Cancer Centre, in Inverness, Scotland.
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46 Responses to Oaks and Pig Tales

  1. Sharon K. says:

    Fantastic! What an adventure!

    How lovely and scary and thrilling, all at the same time. I envy you ๐Ÿ™‚

    Poor dogs knew they’d best stay close but I bet had you been in any real danger they would have come to your rescue in a New York minute. ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. You kept your wits about you and didn’t panic. The sows must have responded in kind. Thankfully, the dogs didn’t go crazy and try to attack them…that could have been a very unhappy ending. Glad you got out in one piece; a beautiful tale, though.

  3. poppytump says:

    Love the *secretive way you’ve captured these wild pigs in the picture Seonaid . A real heart thumping experience you’ve described . Gosh .

    • Thanks Poppy….that effect was accidental as I didn’t want to creep any closer….but I like the effect too ๐Ÿ™‚
      And yes my heart was beating faster, but I was also grinning ear to ear!

  4. Love your little walk in the woods. ๐Ÿ™‚ You certainly met some interesting characters on your walk. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. pommepal says:

    Beautifully, descriptive post, I could feel the overwhelming presence of those pigs. Parodox Farm is right in his comment, I also worked with pigs in NZ for 8 years and a sow with piglets can be ferocious if she thinks her piglets are endangered.

  6. cdancer says:

    Beautifully written, except here where I live, feral pigs are a HUGE PROBLEM because they destroy the native vegetation. So much so, there are teams that are sent out to cull their populations in certain wilderness areas.

    I also was unaware of the symbolism as pigs as guardians of the earth, because they are not native to these lands.

    • Where do you live?
      I can imagine that feral pigs could get out of hand quite quickly.
      These ones are free, and yet contained within a big estate, within protected ancient oak woods. The rangers are managing them apparently. The one I spoke to later was telling me that they are hoping that having the pigs roam in the woods will clear the bracken and allow new saplings to sprout. So the pigs will hopefully help to regenerate the woods, rather than destory it. The rangers gathered lots of acorns last autumn and they will replant the saplings they are growing from them, once the pigs have done their work!

  7. Amy says:

    These pigs are big. I’m surprised too!

    • The size was really astonishing….the sows were just enormous, and looked so heavy and strong….I’m not sure how long it takes for a piglet to grow to full adult size, but the growth since spring has been incredible.
      I was speaking to one of the rangers later and he was telling me that they are using the pigs to clear the bracken which has got out of hand beneath the trees….it’s stopping new saplings from sprouting….so the pigs it’s hoped will help the ancient wood regenerate. I liked that idea ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. rommel says:

    Your words of nature are very poetic. Very nicely written. Eloquent and smart.

  9. I am so glad you were respectful of these animals. Joanna and I raised hogs for years and know that they are changeable. They are easily riled up … especially in groups … and can be very, very dangerous. Both you and especially your dogs could have gotten into serious trouble. Hogs are powerful animals which are difficult to deter from whatever it is they become focused on. And, no amount of yelling and beating with fists will call them off. Perhaps you should take a can of pepper spray with you next time you’re in that area. Having said that … this was beautifully written (as always). Your visitations are usually with the inanimate … this brush with the ancient animate will give me nightmares! D

    • You know David reading this comment has got me sighing with relief that we got out without the pigs getting angry….they had such a confident direct eye gaze, filled with intelligence….and of course with the dogs being nervous I was a bit spooked. It was thrilling but edgy, and as with all good tales it ended well ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Well done you for staying calm, they must have sensed your unthreatening benign presence and what an amazing experience, definitely one for your grandchildren.

    • Well Gilly I stayed quite calm, but my heart was pounding and I was nervous…..seeing the dogs nervous is such an unusual thing it spooked me a bit!
      I thought about trying for a shot of the huge black sow who was looking me in the eye and escorting me from her premises….but I was worried how she might react to the camera….my pace picked up, but I didn’t want to run!!

  11. risinghawk says:

    Beautiful experience. I found it amazing that I saw a group of wild pigs in a large, open field here in northern Virginia! It was less than 6 months ago, and I was driving at the time. I was mystified, but it was exhilarating, too. It felt “ancient” somehow. Great photos ad post!

  12. LB says:

    I too, was thinking you were going to say they were wild boar. and since the dogs were nervous, I would have been intimidated, too. I so love your words “guardians of the woods”

    • The dogs being nervous is just so unusual that I had to take notice….they are normally very confident, but not around the pigs!
      I did come across some wild boars when I was up in Plockton during the summer….I must dig those shots out, but somehow I wasn’t quite as nervous then. Mind you the dogs were safely in the car, and because they were at the side of the road I was just a few feet from the safety of the car ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Thomas Ross says:

    You take us there.

    This communion with the natural world is so precious.

    Thank you.

    Tom

  14. vastlycurious.com says:

    Beautiful, beautiful post S ! ๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿ‚

    • Thank you…..I was a little disappointed with my pigs shots, but was too nervous to try to capture any more….or any closer. I was tempted to try to catch a shot of the big black sow….but I wasn’t sure how she might react to my camera, and so I just kept walking!

      • vastlycurious.com says:

        That’s the one I liked the best but yes, they can be very unpredictable beasts. I would have been thrilled to come across them in the wild! (And a bit nervous too )

  15. gwynnrogers says:

    Your imagery is incredible and your photos excellent as always. I’m a bit jealous of your discovery in the woods, as from my spot of safety here at my computer, finding the pigs sounds fun. Yes, I know it can be dangerous. I think the worst I could run into deep in the woods here would be bears. So, with that in mind… I’ll stay behind my computer, Thank you! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Thanks Gwynn, I’m delighted to hear I conjured up the story so well ๐Ÿ™‚
      I was deeply thrilled to come across the pigs, but I was also quite nervous. The thrilled part sneaked closer for photos, but the sacred part was tugging at my sleeve begging me to leave!
      And bears would be so scary….I can’t imagine!

  16. JunkChuck says:

    I encountered a wild boar in the forest once–a feral boar, technically–all snorts and tusks, it scared the bejesus out of me like nothing else I’ve ever seen in the wild, short of Father Grizzly himself. The intelligence in those eyes, while he was considering whether or not to spare me, was chilling.

    • That would definitely have had me utterly terrified. It was funny because I kept saying to myself ‘relax they’re only pigs’ but my brain was having none of it! Their eyes were very steady, looking right at mine, and yes I could sense the intelligence behind the eyes!

  17. Colline says:

    The pigs in the open like that is definitely a sight one would not see often. When you mentioned their size it made me think of the wild boars in the Asterix stories.

    • I was thinking boars too Colline, the sows were just enormous…..but although they were pigs and not boars I was just as sacred as if they had been boars! They looked so strong, and the was they had turned the grass and earth was quite incredible.

  18. Esther says:

    When I was a child, we had pigs on our farm, and I was always wary of them because they never showed nervousness around humans. They were/are confident strong animals. I didn’t realize it then but their energy is so easily felt. I can still feel it now when I let my memories go back. One of my sisters fell through a hole in the hayloft floor and landed down in the pigs room below. She must have been quite young, maybe 4 or 5, because my older brother and I were too short to reach to door latch to get her out. I remember looking down through that hole at her down below, surrounded by a semi-circle of pigs. More were coming in through the big open door that led out to their pasture. I told her not to move and ran to get our mother. Remarkably she was not injured from the fall. She said the pigs just stared at her, staying in their semi-circle until she got out. That is another thing about pigs, they are good mothers, even to small human children that fall out of the sky.

    • What a story, and what a lucky girl your sister was not to have been injured Esther.
      What you said about being wary of them because they showed no nervousness around humans resonates with my experience. They were just so confident, and while I was being ‘escorted’ from the woods, I was trying really hard not to show my nervousness, and also not to start running incase they got riled!
      I have been left with such a strong expression of their strength and confidence.

  19. Sue Vincent says:

    Wonderful encounter! I had a very similar experience last weekend stumbling across unexpected cows in the wood… and it seems very right to find them there as guardians somehow.

    • Its so lovely…even if a little unsettling….to find the wild spaces inhabited ๐Ÿ™‚
      I saw your gorgeous shot of the bull…..I was a little too nervous to do much composing, and I certainly didnt have the luxuary of waiting for the sun to fall in just the right way, as I usually would ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Sue Vincent says:

        I was busy sinking in squelching mud at the time and rather conscious of the fact he had horns… a big lad ๐Ÿ™‚ But he and the ladies were just lovely.

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