I was a child, growing up in the suburbs of metro Atlanta, Georgia. On outings led by my mother, my three brothers and I would explore local forests and picnic at state parks. Mom made it
a practice to never let a beautiful sunset or a glorious cloud formation escape without drawing our attention to it.
As I became older, I remained tuned in to the forest, exploring local woods and nearby creek.
I would get lost for hours building forts, wondering about the animal tracks I came across and pretending to track them for survival, fashioning primitive tools, and playing hide and seek
with crawdads in the creek as they scurried away. It was there that I felt most at home – that
I was a part of nature, and it was a part of me. In a way, the essence of a spiritual connection
to the Universe.
That foundation became useful when in October, 2013, I experienced the loss of a loved one.
I retreated to the Forest, specifically to a trail around a lake, to soothe my suffering. As I walked, I shed tears and found comfort
in the many metaphors to life found along the path. At first I thought of the trail itself and how, when I sometimes arrived before dawn with only my headlamp to light my way, this was much like life. That sometimes we are only given bits of it at a time, with only the part just before us being illuminated, and that more is always revealed as we continue to move forward.
I received comfort in not knowing, or immediately having all of the answers.
A practice I developed was to take a picture from the same spot at the end of the long lake
every single time I passed by. This became a physical catalog of how, even though the image
was never the same, it was indeed of the same thing each time: the lake, sometimes slick
as glass and reflecting the sky above, sometimes choppy with no reflection – the sky, sometimes
a cloudless blue crystal, sometimes the host of a myriad of different kinds of clouds, sometimes dark and stormy, and the gift of a rainbow the morning my granddaughter was born.
How did it know?
The surrounding trees reflecting the current season, so sometimes totally bare, sometimes burgeoning with new life, sometimes the luscious green of summer, and then of course sometimes bursting with color, once again signaling imminent decay and the eventuality
There was abundance and beauty everywhere I looked, even in the seeming morbidity of death and decay, and all of it had its place in the Universe. The Forest held my hand through that grief, then once again when I lost my mother in August, 2015. I returned to that same trail and was comforted by these gentle, yet firm, reminders. Human life is brief and finite, just as are the seasons, or conditions along a trail, in the sky, or the waters of the lake.
As the Forest held my hand through my grief, it also offered the insight that we are all a gift to the Universe. I began to listen.
Then quite serendipitously, I was given an article about Shinrin-yoku. It felt like every cell in my body was screaming, “Yes! Do this!” Having learned to trust myself over the years (and who can ignore it when every cell is screaming like that?), I answered with a resounding “OK!”. So, here
I am: excited, profoundly engaged, and utilizing my gifts and passions in a way I thought never before possible. Having completed my initial training to be a Forest Therapy Guide as a member of Cohort 6 in Massachusetts, I am working on my practicum, and on course to be certified in November. I am looking forward to bringing people to the forest, so they may learn to listen
to the wisdom and to tap their personal truths. What are your personal truths? What questions
do you have that you would like answered, or perhaps could be comfortable with not having
an answer? What are your gifts, and how might you best use those gifts during your human existence? What other personal truths are you seeking?
Whatever the questions are, I believe the answers reside in that divine intuitive place in us all, and that Forest Therapy can tap that
if we are willing to visit and listen.