(Pixabay)

COLUMN: ‘Only one green in the crayon box’

Discovering the Japanese concept of Shinrin-yoku or ‘Forest Bathing’

When my mom got tired of us kids in the house we knew to expect the familiar command “Go Outside!”

It was not a request, it was an order.

She would strategically wait for a tiny break in the ever-present rain, then announce the directive.

Mom had learned that a good dose of fresh air was the daily remedy for rambunctious children and frazzled mothers.

I recently took a trip to a lovely part of the rainy coastal forest and treated myself to several drizzly excursions.

Not only was the air freshly washed, I realized how much I’ve missed the delicious smells of the bulging green woods.

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When finally, bits of stray sunshine made it’s way through the canopy I just had to stop for a while and absorb the wonderful eye candy.

Towering western red cedar, branch-tips frosted with vibrant new growth studded by raindrops floated in the breeze. Layers of maple green, light to dark in every shade you can imagine. Douglas fir yet to be discovered by the ominous fir beetle, stood proudly displaying their lively new shoots. Swaths of deep, velvety moss clinging to textured trunks, defying the definition of green in every sense.

The undergrowth dominated by Devil’s club, leaves the size of dinner plates concealing the secret, sharp spines below. Ferns so joyously receiving every drop from above, lining my path.

As I let this amazing array of green settle into my soul, I began to consider how an artist would approach this scene. A little box of crayons has just one green – hardly enough to describe the lush and riotous picture I was enjoying.

In Japan, people can participate in Shinrin-yoku, loosely translated as “taking in the forest atmosphere” or its North American handle, “Forest Bathing.”

The first time I heard this term I immediately created a mental image of a claw-footed tub filled with bubbles in the middle of the woods.

After a bit of research, I learned that the term actually refers to the specific practice of immersing yourself in nature. The positive effects are said to include, relief of depression, a greater sense of relaxation that reduces stress and physiological problems. Almost like filling up your wellness reserve bucket.

In Tokyo, it may take an organized program to get out and have a “Forest Bath.”

In Summerland, we are fortunate enough to simply walk out the door and within minutes find ourselves in a bit of forest.

As usual, mom knew what she was talking about. Next time you’re feeling out of sorts, put on your walking shoes and go outside.

You could even walk down to the library and flip through some great books that may inspire your very own Forest Bathing like: Your Guide to Forest Bathing by M. Amos Clifford, Forest Therapy by Sarah Ivens and The Japanese Art and Science of Shinrin-Yoku: Forest Bathing by Dr. Qing Li.

Sue Kline is the Community Librarian at the Summerland Branch of the ORL and dedicated Forest Bather.

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