Monday, 28 September 2015

Forest bathing

In Japan, they have a term for the restorative time spent in nature: forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. There is even a field of Japanese science called Forest Medicine, which studies how time spent in the woods benefits our immune systems.

The word "bathing" is apt for the sense of being immersed in what feels like a different medium, being washed clean.

There is a lake in southern British Columbia where I camp a few times every summer, often with my sister. We joke that the lake waters are healing. Maybe they are. After a few days camping among the trees, and swimming and canoeing every day, I feel stronger, clear-headed, and most of all, worry-free. What had I been worrying about at home? I literally can't remember.

But maybe it isn't just the lake. Being surrounded by the forest washes away the niggling worries of daily life. The region is thick with pines and firs, cedars and poplars and an undergrowth of wild roses, saskatoons, Oregon grape and wild strawberries. Mint grows on the lake edges.

When I'm swimming, I can see the trees that have fallen stretching deep below the surface. They'll be there a long time after I'm gone.