Friday, October 27, 2017

TREE BATHING



Secret Life of Trees, chapbook by Martha Slavin


Though I love trees, I was somewhat skeptical when at a writers' retreat recently in Marin County, we were invited to go forest bathing. I'd first heard of the expression last summer from one of our nieces who lives in a large city and wanted to go tree bathing to reconnect with the natural world. Forest bathing or Shinrin-yoku became a Japanese practice in the 1980s when Japan included the practice in a public health program. The Japanese have studied the effects of a walk in the woods and the restorative value of being out in nature. We all know how soothing being in nature can be, but somehow in our busy, concrete-laden world, we sometimes forget to walk on the grass and take a deep breath.

I'm intrigued by the idea that trees talk to each other. I am not someone who has sought spiritual or mystical relationships with trees, but I am thrilled by the science behind how trees communicate with each other.  Research by Suzanne Simard at Yale shows that trees interact with the fungi in the ground and network with other trees in the neighborhood by exchanging nutrients and information about the family of trees around them. There are even trees called Mother trees, the oldest tree of a species who has the knowledge of the community of trees within its area.




I didn't expect much as we group of writers stood together at the top of a hill ready to experience forest bathing and write about it. We stepped on the well-worn path leading into a small wooded area. I find it hard to be mindful when I am not alone and conscious of others around me; but eventually, I settled down and noticed the forest. I saw a tunnel formed by the trees' branches bent low over the path to create a shelter. My eyes caught minute strands of spider webs connecting one tree to another. I only saw them because a slight breeze brought them to my attention as they floated in the air. I followed the fine lines from one tree to the next. Tiny spiders scurried along the lines to wrap up even smaller insects trapped in the webs. Birds, disturbed by our presence, chirped and flew from one perch to another. They wrestle pine nuts from the cones attached to the branches and trunks of Bishop pines along the trail. Flies or native bees swirled around me as I walked near them. Agitated, they darted from one tree to the next and buzzed around my head.




When I returned to the path's beginning, the ground spongy beneath my shoes, I spotted a circle of young pines and sat inside the circle with my back against one pine. I pulled out my journal and wrote the word "connections" while a breeze moved through the tops of the trees. I felt the tree shudder from the top all the way down to the roots of the tree, the vibrations thrumming through my back. I was surprised. I have never felt a tree move this way. I have never been so close to the heart of a tree.


Eco-printing of tree leaves



Read more about the communication between trees:

Suzanne Simard, Yale
https://e360.yale.edu/features/exploring_how_and_why_trees_talk_to_each_other

Read more about Tree Bathing:

http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/shinrin-yoku.html

Tree Bathing  QUARTZ
https://qz.com/804022/health-benefits-japanese-forest-bathing/

10 comments:

  1. I agree that spending time in the forest is very healing. I love hiking for that reason, and for many others.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Raoul, for reading this post. I always find peace within nature.

      Delete
  2. Thank you for sharing this Martha. I enjoyed reading about your outdoor writing experience!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elizabeth, I'm so glad you liked this piece. I'm also back to reading your blog posting, which are always lovely.

      Delete
  3. As a fellow tree-bather at the same writers' retreat, I loved your description of moving from skepticism to engagement and enjoyment. Thanks also for the references. Although I love swimming and do laps several times a week, I also do my best to forest-bathe whenever I have the chance--in the Oakland hills or out in Point Reyes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Elizabeth, for your comments and for your warm-hearted encouragement of me as a writer. Happy forest-bathing!

      Delete
  4. Wow, now I know where Shyamalan came up with his idea for The Happening. :) But seriously, this is beautifully communicated and I connected. I often do this forrest bathing in my own surroundings and never realized it had a label. I love finding the beginning and ending of thick web strands from tree to building to different tree, all the while wondering how in the world does a spider produce so much silk ... I love watching the birds--the ravens & crows, the family of red-tailed hawks, and occasional cranes. Also the variety of chipmunks and squirrels digging up their buried life treasures, guarding their territories, and just playing in the trees. I will now watch the trees more closely ... to see if I can witness a shuttering. What a release you must feel when you share!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you commented about this posting, Kim. Thank you for taking the time to read it as well as figuring out how to comment! I think there is a writer in you. You have let me see what you experience when you go 'forest bathing.'

      Delete
  5. I am reminding of that song ..."I talk to the trees...."
    I enjoyed the trees up in the Mendocino Woodlands park a few weeks ago. They are so holy like natural cathedrals and the air is pure there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, there is something different about the air in a grove or in the woods or in a forest. Pure.

      Delete

Thank you for commenting! I love hearing from readers, and I answer each one.