Absolutely nothing

I know it’s nothing. Nothing at all.
And yet it’s something.
But most likely it’s nothing, so I’m not going to make something of it.
But it is something.
I must be. I can hear it.
But that’s probably nothing.
Should I even bother posting about this on the off-chance that it might be something?
It’s nothing!
Except for the part that is something…

OK, let’s start from the beginning.
I take more or less daily bike rides. About 9 miles in 42 minutes.
I was coming back from a bike ride one night when I decided to visit my spot, in the woods, by the river, seeing as I was close to it anyway.
I love my spot. It’s in an airy birch forest with a gorgeous river running next to it.
I’ve been to my spot many, many, MANY times. It’s calm and serene and relaxing there.
This time, however, I entered the forest with trepidation.
It was unusually dark, even though it was clear weather and only 9 pm. (which means BRIGHT in Sweden in the summer.)
Yet it was as if the light wouldn’t penetrate the canopy. Like the time was different under the trees.
I got a very strong feeling in my gut telling me NOT to enter, but of course I ignored that because I’m a stubborn and will not get intimidated…
I took three steps into the woods and a fairly large branch cracked somewhere to the right of me.
Still was not going to back down, but scared enough now to turn on the camera and start the video recording…
Moving on down the trail. Still that weird darkness. Strange whispering noises were coming from the river, but I tried to imagine that fish were creating them.
I arrived at my spot. The whispers started up somewhere close, even though I couldn’t see anything at all on the river.
As I was mumbling something to myself about the whispering sounds a freaky sound comes from, I would estimate, the entrance to the forest, i.e. behind me.
It’s a hollow type of call. A yell or a hoot sound that the camera picked up.
Now, let me just point out that I grew up in the woods. And I mean WOODS! Moose and foxes and deer and such I saw on an almost daily basis. I know what they sound like.
This didn’t fit any of those. Not really. Or an owl.
To some extent it sounds a little bit like a deer buck, but not really. Plus it’s the wrong season for them to go around being amorous. This happened in mid-July, and deer mating season is in late fall.
But I concede, maybe it was a buck.
That would in that case explain the cracking branch as I was entering the forest.
Anyway, listen for yourself here.

Well, I got home OK and a few days later, again after biking, I decided it’s time to get back on that horse.

The difference between the way the entrance to the forest looked on those days. The ambient light was the same.
The difference between the way the entrance to the forest looked on those days. The ambient light was the same.

This time, as I enter the woods, there is absolutely no menacing feeling. The forest looks as bright as it should. Nothing feels foreboding.
I walked to my spot and everything was just peachy, except for these weird arrangements I found. Someone put a strange moss in a birch tree and on a stick. This had me very puzzled for a while since no such moss exists in Sweden, or anywhere it seems.

Spooky witch moss…

Later that night I found that I couldn’t stop thinking about who put the freaky moss up and to what purpose. At 1 am I decide that I needed to get back out there and investigate.
Granted, Sweden has very bright summer nights, but around mid- to late July, 1 am is dark dark dark.
On the way I encountered a hedgehog, which I took to be a good sign since I call it my spirit animal now. In hindsight the hedgehog might have been a warning.
In defiance of every logical thought and bad gut feelings, I took off for the woods.
It was dark. So very dark.
I locked my bike at a light post and started walking the gravel road leading up to the entrance to the forest.
In the pitch blackness the camera, again on video, saw nothing. Neither did I. I could barely make out the gravel road I was walking on. On both sides of me grew dense 7 foot reed, and yes, every fiber of my being was screaming “THIS IS NOT BEING BRAVE! THIS IS BEING AN IDIOT!”
All of a sudden, a duck sleeping in the reed was startled by my presence. It started to flap it’s wings and squawking like an asshole, with no consideration what-so-ever to my poor nerves. The shock of that nearly killed me right then and there!
After recovering my ability to breathe, I of course started yelling at the duck for scaring me so, and just as I did I heard a long howl coming from the forest…
Now I’m done.
Now I’m clearly seeing the utter idiocy of being in tall reed, on a gravel road in the pitch blackness of the night, with no houses around.
I didn’t say much any more. I just turned around and moved towards the bike as fast as possible without running. Things chase people running.
Another, fainter, howl followed the first as I reached the bike, and I was SO not sticking around to hear any more. I took off as fast as my legs can pedal. And that’s fast!

As soon as I was home safely I plugged the camera into the computer to see if the howls got caught. They did, at least the first one, but unfortunately it is VERY faint. Since I was standing with my back towards it when it started, in the middle of the reed, and also was moving on the gravel, you need to have pretty good ears to pick it up. As it happened I heard it much clearer.
Here it is.

Three hours later the sun was about to rise, and still being curious about the moss, I actually went back to the woods. (I’m nothing if not adamant!)
Now the mist was rising from the river and the morning dew was covering everything.
I had armed myself with a fruit knife (I know…) and when I reached the moss without having been brutally mauled by a Clive, I used the knife to take apart the moss.
No, there were no pieces of flesh inside à la Blair With Project. Nothing exciting at all in fact. Just moss, that smelled like moss. The only problem was that I still couldn’t at all identify the type of moss.
So I went back home, figuring I’d just have to continue my incessant google searches on moss and lichen.

Now, weeks later, I believe I have finally debunked the moss-mystery though. What threw me was the color. We don’t have any white mosses or lichens that look like that in Sweden.
We do however have one that is green. The confusing thing about it is that it’s called white moss in Sweden. Plus we have something that is in fact a lichen that is more commonly called white moss… But the real white moss (Sphagnum) is green but turns white when the water is squeezed out of it. It can be used in survival situations as a water reservoir, an anti-bacterial bandage on wounds and other things.

Cladonia stellaris on the left, the one commonly called white moss which in reality is a lichen.
On the right is real white moss, Sphagnum cymbifolium.

So yes, moss mystery solved. Maybe. However it does seem incredibly much longer than moss…
Howling remains.

Like I said, it’s probably nothing…


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