I know how good being in nature can make me feel. I have known it for since I was a child. The sounds of the forest, the scent of the trees, the sunlight streaming through the trees, the flowers in bloom— these things give me a sense of comfort. They ease my stress and allow me focus to first thing in the morning, it gives me to time relax and to think more clearly. Being in nature can restore my mood, give me back my energy and vitality, refresh and rejuvenate me. I have a deep appreciation for beautiful landscapes.
But what exactly is this feeling that is so hard to put into words? I certain J’ne sais pas?In Japan, It is called forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses.
As a child I sketched the flowers growing in my yard and labeled them. I tried to capture their beauty as only a child can. I made leaf collections in the fall and labeled the leaves. I loved looking at exposed outcrops of rock, reading the geologic record. I remember being delighted when I learned how to tell if there had been flood recorded in the rock. I was also delighted to learn how microclimates supported the theory of an Ice Age.
We went trail riding with the Adventure Maidens. The Adventure Maidens two mother/daughter camp outs a year. It was a blissful decompression to my workload as a teacher. I do remember being very present as well with a calm peaceful feeling. I had one of best trail rides of my life with that mother daughter group.
In the Summer of 2009, I was still a public school teacher with the summers of off. There was an economic downturn, and my friend Jaime was unemployed. We hiked just about every day that summer. My mother was also dying that summer and I think the forest saved my sanity, which is tenous at best. We rock climbed down to Chippewa Creek and sat on a boulder and just went silent in awe of the beauty around us. I didn’t realize I was forest bathing at the time, but I remember a calm, peaceful. I was so present in that moment that I remember it all these years later.
It is on my agenda to sit on the overlook at Virginia Kendall and watch the sunrise before the summer is over. It looks across the valley that was carved by the Ice Age. Virginia Kendall has every aspect of forest bathing that I can hope to find. A walk at my local part is like a walk through time. Pangea, and the rising and falling of the mountains, crustal forces to intense for us to imagine and created outcrops of rock that are covered in lichens. Endangered bats live in the ice box cave, far from humans and their disease.
Looking at these picure above? Can you feel the breeze across your skin? Can you feel the warmth of the sun? Can you hear the rippling of the stream below. As fall beckons, the leaves will get progressively darker green, then turn into vibrant colors which seem to appear overnight. Can picture the autumn leaves in the forest? Looking at the winter landscape, can you hear the sound of silence. Snowfall gently falling in an eerie calm?
I urge you to find a place this summer to do some forest bathing. As a matter of fact, I think we did some forest bathing right now, during this speech. You can practice forest bathing wherever you have a forest to look at, whether your national park, or your cubicle. Be mindful today and take care of yourself.
About the Creator
I am an aspiring writer currently writing a book on the Sober Revolution we are in the midst of, a book about essays that will change the way you think, and a novel about a serial killer. I am also working on a book of poetry.