by Kalia Kelmenson: I’m a natural born tree-hugger…
Get me to a forest, and I instantly feel calmer, better able to breathe, and more at peace. The recent surge of interest in the Japanese termed shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, is a sign that many have lost this connection and ache for it back. As an antidote to the constant pace of the world today, it’s hard to imagine a better way to spend our precious time.
Often as I step into the forest, I think of the words of Khalil Gibran, “forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” The path is there in front of you. The trees, likely growing straight and true from before our own birth, and will likely, -and hopefully- outlast us all, have wisdom for us, if only we take the time to listen.
Stepping into a forest with intention requires a letting go of technology. Leave the phone in the car, resist the temptation to bring along the ear buds and your favorite playlist. Instead, make the choice to immerse yourself in the forest. Andrea Sarubbi Fereshteh, author of the beautiful book In the Company of Trees: Honoring Our Connection to the Sacred Power, Beauty, and Wisdom of Trees offers a delightful global journey through the forests of the world. She suggests the following ideas for deepening your appreciation of trees that are:
- Keepers of the watershed. Trees that surround streams serve an important place in the health of that stream. As Fereshteh writes, “trees help remove excess nutrients and pollutants from water and mitigate sediment runoff, and they provide a shady canopy that ensures a temperate water climate.” Leaves and branches that end up in the water also support the aquatic ecosystem.
- Makers of magical lighting. On my favorite trail, there are numerous spots where just enough of the canopy opens to create a spectacularly dappled light that fills me with joy as I take it in. The japanese word komorebi describes this “ephemeral experience of sunlight as it filters through a canopy of tree leaves.” Next time you are in the forest, spend some time in this mystical light, bathing in its golden glow.
- A giant heartbeat. Imagine a baby breathing, the visible rise and fall of her belly with each breath. Driven by the beat of our heart, our breath creates movement. Fereshteh describes research showing that “scientists have discovered that tree branches move up and down-albeit slowly and by just a few inches- in what they believe is a sort of ‘tree heartbeat.’” This “tree heartbeat is believed to involve rhythmic expansion and contraction as a mechanism for moving water, a tree’s lifeblood, and nutrients through the plant’s xylem and phloem network.”
There are so many unique trees in the world, with different patterns of responding to the seasons, and to the world around them. To sit and walk among the trees brings a bounty of blessings, both seen and unseen, when we allow ourselves to experience them. Spend some time with a tree today.