As a child, I was deathly afraid of nature. Unlike peers who enjoyed kite-flying on fields and hikes up macaque-infested hills, I preferred the gentle safety of a worn-out paperback. With childhood heroes like Nancy Drew and Harry Potter investigating valleys and forests on my behalf, I willfully avoided nature and those I imagined to be its inhabitants—hostile wildlife, Pontianaks, and lurking criminals. In many ways, I was the quintessential city dweller, pampered by urbanisation and out of touch with the earth.
Years later, at the tail end of my twenties, I found that my longstanding hylophobia disappeared without warning. No memo, no indication. It was as if I was someone else altogether. But how could that be?
When I first received the invitation to write for Making Kin, a collection of ecofeminist essays by Singaporean women, I wondered if I could find the reason for this bewildering—even seismic—shift in me. After all, the personal essay is not only a medium to relate discoveries. It embodies the very process of self-discovery.
In the opening paragraph of my personal essay “The Spell of the Forest”, I am standing at the top of Chestnut Nature Park for the first time. There, I have an unexpected epiphany—that it can be pleasurable to be in nature’s looming embrace because it is a reminder that there is an elaborate ecosystem that I too am a part of. Later in the essay, I realise the impact that caregiving has had on my psyche. As a young woman, caring for her sick father, even the once terrifying natural world now seems like a safe space. A place where I am not broken by the trauma and labour of seeing a loved one deteriorate, but where I am whole again. Even if just for a while.
Through Making Kin, I am more convinced than ever that we write to find ourselves.
We write to be found, once again.
Sending you love,
Co-founder and fiction editor of Mahogany Journal