Doing Some Autumn Forest Bathing
November 12, 2020
BY FRAN TOPPING
I was unfamiliar with the term "forest bathing" until just yesterday morning, when I came upon it in a novel. I knew though - instantly, precisely - what was meant. I have, in fact, been a lifelong practitioner. I simply never had a name so right for it.
On Friday, after sharing with my fellow citizens of all political leanings the angst of days of uncertainty, I turned off the television for a bit. No radio, no music ... cell phone in my pocket for emergencies but silenced. I walked into the little bit of wood I am able to call my own, turned my face to the sky, and was silent.
The forest has always called me, and I have never found peace greater than under a tall oak. I talk to the trees, to the wind, to myself, to the Creator. I talk to no one, and everyone at once. I am still, and yet so full of joy I could laugh aloud, and sometimes do.
When winter claims the land, the forest is a refuge. The poison ivy and the grasping briars sleep, and the buckbrush and the sumac clear a path. I walk in warm jacket and tall boots from shade to sunlight, sunlight to shade. My breath is soft and crystal in the air and all but that is still. Crisp. Sharp. Cleansing.
In springtime the forest is alive with possibility ... wee spots of green at my feet and over my head and peeping out from behind each tree. Birds and squirrels and all manners of creatures call out for love sought or found. Verdant. Lush. Fertile. Ready. Anticipating.
Come summer, the flora and fauna settle in. From emerald to chartreuse to darkest juniper I am immersed in green, with brilliant pops of wildflower color throughout. The shade of my little forest offers me cool and quiet, a respite from the hot southerly winds. Lazy. Dawdling. Summer afternoon sunshine sleepy.
But, oh! The early fall!
When I sit against a steadfast tree on a cushion of golden leaves and falling leaves dance and swirl around me as they drift and settle. It feels as if the earth is pulling a warm blanket over her shoulders, and I close my eyes and think of the soft quilts and afghans my grandmothers made for me as nights grew cooler.
And just two days ago, Friday, when I turned off the outside voices and tuned in to the whispers of the forest ... when I went forest bathing for an hour or so ... how cleansed and refreshed I felt after. A large buck, sensing no threat, stopped not 40 feet away and stared as he chewed a blade of grass, before calmly continuing his hike. My gathering apron was so full of pecans I barely conquered the struggle back up the hill to home.
I was tired. And soothed. And calm. And happy. And clean.