Walking into any woods I clear my mind, refresh my soul and emerge more focused. In Japan they call this forest bathing. I reflected on this concept while watching a new film, An Above Average Day, about two local men who’ve climbed 400 mountains. Ray O’Conor is thirty years older than Joe Murphy. They inspire us to take any level hike, in mountains, nature preserves, state parks, across farms and fields. They believe in forest bathing.
I invite us to honor them and our experiences with nature. I’ll start and you can share your thoughts. As a child I played in neighboring woods, fields, dammed up streams and walked through swamps. Then the bulldozers came and as Joni Mitchell sang, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot… took all the trees and put them in a tree museum and charged us a dollar and a half just to see them.” It hurt.
I later had a unique experience while in seminary. I spent a year in the woods in silent meditation. I left and went to war. That was a shock. Coming home I sought readjustment and peace through nature. I married Lin, a woman who shares my sense of spirituality in nature. We’ve hiked together for fifty years and raised children who share our love for the outdoors. When I went to work at NYS State Parks there were limited opportunities for inner city kids, the developmentally disabled and blind skiers in parks. I set up programs for nontraditional patrons. Today there are greater opportunities for all including bird watchers who use wheelchairs and for less agile elders to enjoy nature.
I am proud of Ray and Joe’s accomplishments, their Forest Bathing, intergenerational friendship and persistence. I’m also proud that Lin and I walk and hike at our own level wherever and whenever we can.
I trust you have your own stories. Let’s celebrate forest bathing and encourage each other. Please tell me your experiences with nature and share them with your family and friends.
Delighted to share in Ed Murphy’s deep connection to nature.
My “forest bathing” occurred when for 18 months I cycled and camped through countrysides on a round-the-world trip in 1978-80. Ain’t nothing better for the soul. Hiking mountains? Haven’t done much of that but I’m sure it offers the same.
Thank you for sharing our experiences with your readers, Ed. Joe and I just returned from a hike along the Taconic Crest Trail. Like all of our sojourns in the wilderness, we are refreshed on body, mind and soul.
Thank you Ed…forest bathing currently for me is a 30+/- minute beach walk on Lido Beach in Sarasota-5 mornings a week culminating in a dip in the gulf water followed by a 20+/- minute stretch/meditation on my blanket/towel in the sun.
Ginny Mooney Scavuzzo responded on my Facebook page
Ed, Thanks for sharing your “forest bathing” thoughts and stories because they remind me to share a practice of mine. I started in the winter when traveling from West Ave to Route 9 and back, instead using West Fenlon Street, I have been going through the State Park enjoying The Avenue of the Pines. These few minutes of intentional slowing down allow the senses to awaken. Driving down the avenue through these majestic trees, watching nature come alive, doesn’t compare to forest bathing, but it truly is meditative.
Gail Connell responded on my Facebook page
Absolutely beautiful Ed, when I was a child we had woods, a small clay mountain, and a crick (some people say creek) and a barbed wire fence in our back yard in Rensselaer. We also had a beautiful waterfall at the top of our street. Right across the River from Albany. The barbed wire fence was for our horse Pepper. Pepper was so old that he would lie down, we would climb on his back, grab a Hank of hair and Pepper would stand up and walk around a little bit. When he was done he would lie back down.
I spent my summers out in Middleburgh with my great grandmothers sister and her husband. Oh how I loved that time out there. Their house was on the same road that Vroman’s nose is on. We climbed up to the top many times. Long before there was even a hint of a trail. Lol
My ancestors were Vroman’s, Diamonds and Lawyers. On the hill behind my great aunts house on the other side of the crick is my ancestors cemetery. I haven’t been up there since the 1970’s when my great aunt was buried, my uncle Jim (state troooer) had to dig that grave by hand, no way to get equipment up there.
Ah the memories, great uncle Harry would milk their cow and sing along as he did so. He would say a squirt for the bucket and a squirt for you as he would squirt me in the face with the milk. If you’ve never had fresh warm milk it is totally different!
But anyway I had a great childhood in Rensselaer climbing that clay mountain and climbing to the top of the waterfalls and Middleburgh climbing to Timothy Murphy’s bed on Vroman’s Nose.!the story was that Timothy Murphy sat in the ledge(his bed) and watched over the valley. Below. I’m sure we did a lot of forest bathing on those climbs.
Thanks Ed for making me think of my memories.
I’m sharing with my nephew who hikes a lot up in the Adirondack’s, his wife has hiked her entire life. Her first hike with her father was on Hadley Mountain. They have a little daughter (they tried for 5 years to have a baby) her name is Hadley. I’m sure they will love your message!
Beth Weatherby commented on my Facebook page
Most mornings, year round, with snowy, icy, or clear trails, Steve and our dog Stella and I start the day walking through forests and meadows.