I sat on the cedar dock still full of fragrance, waiting for day to arrive. Loons bob along in the water, eagles perch in the tree beside me watching over their home and commenting on its beauty. Another morning was spent face-down on the dock watching fish swim in the shadows, noticing deer prints on the path with my dog Autumn’s nose following the trail. Evenings saw ducks upside-down themselves in pursuit of dinner and otters glide by the beach in tandem. No agenda.
This spring, I had decided to practice Shinrin-yoku on a weekly basis. The Japanese word, Shinrin-yoku translates roughly into “forest bathing.” The short definition is to meander, with no intention outside of breathing in the forest, noticing what you see, and what emerges in you. It is now half way through the summer, and to accent the practice, I spent a week reuniting with the calm that lives in the forest, and experience it heal brokenness I forgot I had.
Mary Oliver reminds us of this sacred earth, our home. The beauty, the majesty, the wonder which resides not only “out there,” but also within each one of us. The key is to learn to notice the beauty, majesty and wonder inside of you.
I invite you to take a moment of Shinrin-yoku. Imagine yourself in a place where you might become reunited with the calm and enjoy Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day.
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
There will be more stories of this practice in the future. In the meanwhile, for more information on Shinrin-yoku, please check out: