While researching the next garden or house project, often a headline will grab my attention and the next hour will slip away. This isn’t all that odd or unusual, but it is how I learned about “forest bathing.” I’ve adapted this concept into “garden bathing.”
My house is a five minute walk from an expansive city park. On a recent, gloriously balmy spring day, I went for a walk along one of the park’s wooded trails. The path weaves through a forest of only 60 acres, but . . .
Once you step inside the barrier of trees, distance doesn’t matter.
The past 20 years dropped away. Instead of brushing past palms and canna lilies, I was weaving around the rocks and rhododendron of the Appalachian Mountains. My outdoor-enthusiast parents took me on many hikes, and the girl scout camp I attended was nestled in the mountains and webbed with trails. The scent of dirt and pine entrenches my childhood memories.
After some rough patches in the past several years, my life has more or less settled into a peaceful state. On that park path, however, the connection I felt with the earth and my own history felt somehow deeper, stronger, and purer.
Forest bathing isn’t a new concept.
It’s an ancient Japanese idea in which someone spends time among the trees in order to reduce stress and rejuvenate the spirit. Certain tree oils in the air can even increase energy by up to 30%. Two of the trees with the richest oils just so happen to form a bridge between the Appalachian hikes of years ago and my park walks of present: pine and cypress.
As a child, I thought of the mountain hikes as death marches. My little legs struggled to climb over miles and miles of rough landscape. Now, as is often the case, I miss the thing I then loathed.
Admittedly, I usually don’t end up going to the park’s forest all that often. So many other people find the same peace in the same natural location. As someone with social anxiety, I tend to avoid people when I want to connect with nature. So what’s a hermity, anxious gal to do?
While wandering among the trees might provide the most significant benefit, being around houseplants or aromatherapy helps ease stress too. But for those of us who crave dirt under our fingernails, why not build a garden?
Even better – why not build as big a garden as your space accommodates?
This might mean a charming collection of planters on a patio or windowsill. For me, when I bought my house, I planted backyard vegetable and butterfly gardens.
My front yard, however, lacks some of that natural beauty. It’s just grass (well, and a ton of weeds). I’ve finally decided to do something about it, and in the coming weeks, my little front lawn will become a garden.
I might not always make it out to the forest, but hopefully, I have many days in my future for garden bathing.