April 2, 2024

The Healing Forest: How to Find our Soul Among the Trees.

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I have a far-off and distant memory.

In this long-ago moment, I’m deep in the quietest, most beautiful place on Earth.

My mother and father are sitting on a log bench behind me along the path. They need a rest from the day’s hike. But I can’t sit still—I’ve slipped away into the trees. Not too far away. Just far enough to see what’s over there beyond the branches.

Generations of fallen leaves crunch and squish beneath me, each mulching into the ground nourishing the forest floor. I step over a fallen tree half propped up by its own surviving branches. Its trunk is now teaming with a million little ants crawling in and around its softening bark.

I weave around the tall spruce, straining my neck to see their tops an unfathomable distance above me. In the highest branches, I hear innumerable bird voices, each one sweet and unique.

Finally, I reach my target. I stand on the eroded banks of the ravine, worn down by centuries of endless running waters. A few feet below me, a clear, shallow tributary gurgles and slaps against the rocks. A pair of ducks go by half swimming, half riding the current. Their gentle quacking is just audible above the sound of the water.

And all my stresses, worries, and fatigues seem to rush away down the water with them.

Cool, crisp air fills my lungs and chest. I feel lighter, cleaner, and healthier.

So, I linger a moment. I don’t do anything. I try not to think. I just stand there, drink in everything, and just silently exist.

Such are the gifts of the forest. I can tell you a million such stories, from quiet walks with my grandmother to thrilling adventures with my sisters. But sometimes the best, most nourishing moments are the ones, like my visit to the ravine, that are spent alone.

It’s really easy to forget about a place like this—a place like no other—but we’d better not.

By now, we’ve all heard the statistics about how much impact the trees have on our air quality and environment and how much damage is being done to our wild places through development and pollution.

But, believe it or not, there’s an even bigger reason to protect our forests.

The forests are not only here to provide us with products and resources. Our forests are actually here to take care of us.

Scientific research has shown that trees emit certain substances that improve our immune system and help us fight the things that ail us. The gentle noises, scents, and sights are healing to our minds and spirits. Those soft leaves are kind to our knees and feet, providing relief from the miles of concrete we spend most of our lives following. Even the animals talk to us, teaching us about teamwork, courage, and even the art of just relaxing.

The first and most important thing we can do to help preserve our beautiful forests is to simply make use of them. Go for a walk. Breathe the forest in. Become a part of it.

You may not be able to get to the grand forests of the Amazon or the pristine woods of the high mountains. However, even if we’re in the middle of the city, there’s always a park somewhere close by where we can go and enjoy the life of the trees. Or a garden. Or a terrarium on our table or a plant box in our window.

Next time you’re in the woods, save a leaf or two. Maybe a small branch or a pine cone. Keep your treasure in a safe place and the next time you’re feeling stressed, touch it, smell it, or just look at it. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel.

Even just sitting back and indulging in a memory like the one I’ve shared can help.

Our forests are vital to us in more ways than we realize. In 2012, the United Nations even selected March 21st as the International Day of the Forests. It’s a day of awareness and recognition for the woodlands of our world.

But it’s so important that we not limit ourselves to just one day of the year. The next time you’re in a forest or near any kind of plant life, don’t just look and walk away. Take a moment to drink in the details. Become aware of all five senses. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? Put a permanent bookmark in every detail of this moment.

Then, one day, when you need it the most, you’ll be able to return to the bank of that ravine and watch your troubles wash away downstream.


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