Sam and I have a new expression. We are trying to use it daily to describe an experience of 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
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