Forest Bathing on the coast of Maine

Our nearby forest bath. Down the road from our house in Stonington.

Sam and I have a new expression: forest bathing. We use it daily as a signal for calm and clarity. “Where are you going?” I’ll ask as he steps out the door. “To take a forest bath,” Sam replies. We learned the term from our daughter Eliza but it’s Japanese, a translation of shinrin-yoku. Shinrin means “forest” and yoku means “bath.”

From a new book on the topic: “So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses. This is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.”

Apparently, shinrin-yoku became a “thing” in Japan in the 1980s and is now considered a cornerstone of preventive healthcare and well-being.

Here’s how we do it: we walk a half mile down Indian Point Road from our house and turn into the woods just before you get to Ames Pond. The trail Sam discovered is faintly marked – tangled roots, a few blow downs and just enough flat surface to look inviting. Within seconds, we are bathed in the light filtering through the tall pines, we can hear the sound, faintly, of the tree tops swaying and we smell the pine needles and damp earth. The sound of the foghorn, marking the entrance to Deer Isle Thorofare from East Penobscot Bay about two miles away, is persistent but also a pleasant reminder of where we are.

That’s all there is to forest bathing. Yes, even on the coast of Maine, life moves fast enough that you need to work at slowing it down. Of course, Sam has been forest bathing before he knew the term. Sitting in deer blinds for zen hunting with his friend David Fitz is another form of this quiet art.

No cell phones allowed

Leaving your phone behind is essential to taking a real forest bath. The first time I went with Sam into the woods, I spied the marvelous scene above of a miniature frozen pond hidden in the rocks. With no phone or camera, I just gazed at it. Later, I went back to snap the photos.

A few resources

Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness
by Dr. Qing Li

The Benefits of Forest Bathing (Time Magazine: May 1, 2018)

That’s a wrap for 2018

That’s it for the blog for 2018. We’ll try and write more often in 2019! In the meantime, have a joyful and sane holiday wherever you are. Thank you for reading. We especially love your feedback and comments. It keeps us going. – Debbie and Sam


4 Responses to Forest Bathing on the coast of Maine

  1. Andy Franklin December 26, 2018 at 10:04 am #

    Thank your for writing these thoughtful pieces throughout the year. I enjoy hearing about your accomplishments and adventures.. I look forward to hearing what the coming year brings.

  2. Aleta Reist April 19, 2019 at 5:27 pm #

    Sam, I meant to write to you a year ago when I finished “At Peace”, your book recommended to me by my good friend, Joan Fry, who had the great pleasure of working with you years ago. As a retired RN, I found the book to be so worthwhile, having seen people fighting to live when there was no hope for them. I have heard so many times from those who have lost loved ones after a grueling battle, that if they had known how awful the battle would be, they would never have encouraged them to fight so desperately. When I read the book, my own brother-in-law was dying from leukemia-he wouldn’t give up and so the last 5 months of his life were awful. I don’t claim to have the right answers, but I wanted you to know how much I appreciated the book. Thanks.

  3. Sam April 21, 2019 at 9:34 am #

    Aleta, thank your for your thoughtful comments. All best wishes, Sam

  4. Kenya February 1, 2020 at 3:55 pm #

    “It is truly amazing that In one little walk you can have this epic journey into your soul and the living world around you and come out more relaxed, happier, healthier, and downright excited to be alive again.”

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