The Forest of Phantaia

Who are we but phantoms to the forest. For trees that have suffered the recent ravages of cruel Man’s greed and dominance have stood here in this cold earth since time immemorial, long before we were even born. These mammoth trees and their elders, chopped down and obliterated by us in this fleeting age of blind consumption, are gone. Yet their spirits remain.

For it matters not to them if they perish by our hand now. They will be reborn someday and reign over this Earth soon enough. Their death now speeds along Man’s own demise. For their death is our own. If we are to survive, we must live beside them, embrace the beauty and sanctity of the wilderness as something beyond the price of money and vain ego.

We must stop the destruction of the last of the old woods and banish by the strictest of laws known to man all destruction of the forests. Only then will Mankind survive and what remains of their kind live to save us.

That is one of the reasons I incorporated wilderness and forests into my novel. The novel’s title, Phantammeron, means simply “Book of the Forest”. And so Phantaia, the woods that form the heart of my world, is the central source of its being.

For there is something beyond-sacred about the forest. I have always loved the woods. As a child we moved to Louisiana from the big city of Dallas, Texas. And I spent my time as a young man roaming the Kisatchie National Forest which generations past had the fore-site to preserve. But in the 1920’s massive logging had decimated its ancient virgin timber, leaving little to admire beyond a vast sea of young hybridized pine, tailor-made for the paper industry. But with careful exploration I was able to discover parts of the ancient wood. And so I would take my painting easel out into the wilderness to paint the old trees in oil.

I have always loved old trees and wild places. Many might think I was odd. But the fast life, the party life was not for me. I sought isolation and introspection as a young man. I was filled with the joy of seeing Nature and its vast beauty, then recreating it in my art. And so I took that joy and majored in art in college. But it is in college that I roamed the libraries and found the mythology of my ancestors. And so began my exploration of the eternal theme of Nature which many who came before me – poets and artists in my mind, also sensitive of heart – had found.

Combined with the love of the forest and my earlier experiences I merged the two ideas together to form the mysterious world of the Phantammeron in novel form. And so the piles of notes that would describe the ancient forest called Phantaia had begun 30 years ago.

My point to you is that forests live fully in you….in your imagination and psyche. And though I encourage young people to escape the city and discover the last wild places left on Earth, I also encourage people to find the wilderness inside you as it has no boundaries, is limitless, and is eternal. For the forest is but a universal archetype of the spirit-self. And long after Mankind and Corporations demolish the last trees, that wilderness will still live in you. It will still live in books. The ideas behind Phantaia then became for me something important. It was not about World Building for novels, it was about writing about wild places that could never exist in this world. For I had seen a longing to write of wild and hoary woods beyond all imagining; an endless and ancient forest filled with mist and mystery, and something monstrous and beyond fantasy itself.

And so I came up with Phantaia as the forest primeval, a place of all origins, a birthplace, a paradise of the Gods, and the ancient homeland of the Fay or faerie which would come later. But Phantaia was something more to me than woods. It existed in a misty and forgotten world that would exist separate from a second world that would come later, one which would contain the Tolkien fairy-like races that would come to worship Phantaia in the first fantasy world of Book One and see it as their “heaven”…..the place of their Gods distant and tragic past but also where they go upon passing. In that sense I was creating a Mythical Wilderness that formed my view of Heaven itself; one that would be but a dream to another dream-like world that would come into existence later and owe its own meaning to the myth of Phantaia.

And so I hoped to build a myth upon myth as regards ancient forests and trees and so elevate ancient woods beyond themselves into places of meaning psychologically and spiritually to me. Phantaia would then become, like the Dreaming Seas where the fates of Gods are dreamed and born, itself a dream within a dream…..a purple misty paradise from which the towering trees shined with lavender bark and who’s emerald leaves dripped with the dew of my darkest dreams, where all life originated in me and where I like the characters and creatures in my books would someday return.

As such Phantaia became but a paradise half-grasped in my mind, something unreal, the ideal Earth I had dreamed of seeing yet feared to see, one whose every inch of earth was filled with hoary oaks and hawthorns, shadowed ash and sleeping elder who became but Gods themselves in a shadowed world. Yet Phantaia had a beating heart that was bright and sunny, a garden paradise at its center whereupon a shining, honeyed tree stood upon a peak and beamed out like a million suns, surrounded by endless grassy hills and flowering beauty, burgeoning streams, and gentle rains that fed an ancient sister-pool that slept eternally beside it.

For this idyllic image then completed my view of paradise in my mind and became a universal symbol of the soul, the mythological landscape of the Self native to all Mankind on some psychological level. Phantaia then became complete in my mind and the ideal earth I envisioned where Nature held its dominant sway and Mankind was but a pawn to its majesty. And it became the Garden of Eden I had longed to visit and live in.

Writing about this strange place then healed me, filled me, and through writing completed the mythology I had sought to portray in my writing and art since I was young. All that was left was to tell of its tragic tale. And that now remains the final journey for me as I work slowly to complete the Phantammeron books.

– the Author

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