Monday, October 24, 2011

Forest Bathing

October 24, 2011


Did you know there is something called forest bathing?  In Japan, it is called Shinrinyoku.  Business men don their suits and stand buck naked in the forest, breathing in the essential oils from surrounding trees. 

Yesterday, the sun was illuminating the big maple in Steve’s back yard. It was golden. 

“Hey, let’s but on our hiking shoes and go for a walk.”  Steve suggested.

“O.K.”  I was game.  “Where?  Maybe we should drive to the trails on Tiger Mountain.”

“Seems silly to get in the car to go for a walk.”  Steve answered.  “Let’s hike up the hill at the head of my driveway.”

“I’ve been up there a number of times.” I answered.  “Nothing up there but power lines.”

“There is DNR land up beyond the well house.  90 acres of it.  Lots of trails.”

The trek to the top involves a long, narrow road that leads to several houses.  I haven’t been exercising like I used to before you died.  I was embarrassed by how out of shape I have become.  Pride kept me from stopping to catch my breath, so when we reached the top, I was shaky.
As we crested the hill, we turned right, onto a gravel road.  Sadie was with us.  After we walked around the locked gate, I unclipped her from her leash, she looked at me, I told her “Go on ahead.”  Tail wagging, she led the way. 

“You’ve been holding out on me.”  I teased Steve.  “How come you never told me this was here?”

He just smiled.  Then took my hand as we walked in the autumn woods.  Silent.  Listening.
Enjoying this brief respite before the holidays and all the memories they will bring.

The gravel road ended at a well house.  From there, small foot trails branched off, like smaller streams that feed a river.  We climbed a berm and took the middle trail. 

Lush.  The only sounds the whisper of falling leaves, bird calls, and a squirrel who scolded us for coming into her backyard. 

“Listen to the echoes.”  Steve invited.

I did.  And then I made my own.  Whooping, laughing, I caught the echo of my heart opening.

I handed Steve Sadie’s leash.  I took off my t-shirt, handed it to him, then opened my arms to the trees, the ferns, the smell of leaves decomposing.  Felt a cool breeze wrap itself around me.
“I am walking with my shirt off until we hit the road again.” I told him as I moved ahead of him on the trail, arms open wide, then arms above my head.  I wanted to soak as much of this air into my skin as possible.  It felt like something magic.

Forest bathing.  Shinrinyoku.

A return to something primal inside of me.  I find a place I must return to.

A place I can draw strength from.

                                    Love you and miss you,