Last May Kristen lead a circle on Biophilia. She shared with us that “plants communicate using chemical substances.” When we go for a walk in the woods, we absorb these chemicals and “we are diving into an enormous breathing organism that communicates with us. We become a part of it, and we breathe and communicate together.” The Japanese have a concept of Forest Bathing that is about going into the woods using all our senses. “Today in Japan it is officially recognized as a means of preventing disease as well as a supplement to treatment.” She then told us how scientists have proven that hanging out in the woods boosts your immune system, helps fight against cancer (!), and speeds recovery and lessens the need for pain control after surgery. I found the circle fascinating and an enlightening explanation of what I always felt but could not put into words or have the science to back up.
Flash forward two months and guess where I get to go on a business trip? Southern California. And guess what is not too far away? The Sequoia National Forest. Squee! Where better to experience and understand the concept Kristen put forth? The Hubster joined me post conference and after stopping at a roadside stand for local produce, we headed out. And let me tell you, it was AMAZING! We were there during the week when not many people were around to harsh my Biophilia Groove. We spent several days in Sequoia and King’s Canyon. I can’t remember the last time I saw vast wilderness with nary a human in sight nor the sounds of human activity!
I breathed in the trees with their unique scent and enjoyed communing with the gentle giants. I felt welcomed and relaxed. Every day we would pack a lunch and head into the woods. From dawn to dusk we explored. We visited the biggest and most famous trees. The sense of majesty and history were strong here, we paid our respects and honored them. We learned why they grow so big: their wood is soft and not good for commercial uses like ship masts or pencils, so they were not harvested; their outer coat makes them fire resistant, protecting their inner core; and the mists that flow from the ocean create the perfect environment for them to thrive.
It was easy to find secluded places that were off the beaten track too. We approached this with an understanding that we were 2 of 149.1 million people that visit each year and we wanted to make sure we had no impact on the areas. With this in mind, we lunched next to nurseries of baby trees, where I could feel the young spirits full of life and excitement. We brought books and read next to a meadow, listening to the wind and bird song. We marveled at waterfalls and meditated next to running rivers. I cannot even describe how profound that was.
Another great benefit was the dark skies. We could see the stars at night, even from the door of our air B&B. One night we got up at 3 am to go look at them from an outlook way up the mountain that had a spectacular open view. It had been a long while since I had seen the Milky Way in all her glory!
Our time in the woods came to an end and real life had to start again. But we left feeling connected and renewed. We were fortunate enough to also visit the Pacific Ocean on our way home, another spot for deep perspective and healing, but that is a story for another day. It has become my goal in life to seek out these spots and revel in them. But I know that even when I can’t go running into the wilds for days, I can always find solace in my own backyard.
I thank Kristen for opening the door to nature in a new way!