About Pam Collage Art by Pam Writing Life Manifesto

I went to the woods several months ago with my husband. We rented a small cabin with big windows near a gorgeous Oregon mountain  river.  I reveled in the old growth forest that surrounded our little mountain getaway. Like sentries they stood, towering cedars and firs watching  over us as we rested from the chaos of city life and demanding work schedules. We went on a hike to nearby Mirror Lake.  Each breath I drew in was like a big drink of sweet well water. There is something about being in a grove of mossy  old-growth that is oh-so-good for my soul. The Japanese have a term for this, Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. 

forestcabin

Living in Oregon means I have ready access to emerald green spaces just minutes away. Especially Forest Park, the country’s largest urban forest with more than 5,000 acres of forested beauty right here in the middle of Portland. We live a short drive from some of the trail heads that lead into the park’s miles and miles of fern-drenched paths and hikes.

For the last several years I have noticed that I when I am camping or hiking out in the forest, I am more able to access that well of deep inner knowing. Like the one year Jerry and I were camping during our 25th wedding anniversary (wow!). I had  a sudden crushing episode of body shame that whipped the peacefulness right out of my size 14 girth and guts. I went on a solo nature walk to sort it all out. By the end of that walk serenity was restored and my world was once again in balance as I made nice with my body. The forest helped me recover my sense of Being uncluttered.

I am spending more time in the woods. I am following my flutters, those little nudges that steer us along the meanderings of life. As a lifelong city dweller, spending more time in nature is a small revolution for me.

American naturalist John Muir said, The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness. 


(photos by Pam Hogeweide, Siouxon Creek, Washington)

I recently watched the Twilight trilogy (for the first time!)  just to enjoy the lush forested scenery where the story is set. It was like taking a forest bath in my own living room … well ok, ok, that’s totally stretching it, but it was a small delight to have the visual of an old-growth forest beaming through my television while holed up during winter storm season.

Sometimes at work ( I work at a Nabisco snack factory) I daydream about being in the woods. My go-to visual aid to center myself down is me swimming in the Nehalem river in the Tillamook forest, one of my most fave places on the entire planet. I could have really used a dip in the river after getting duked out by an oversized bag of cocoa powder to make Oreos as you can see in this photo from a rather messy shift. :)cocoapam

 

Jerry and I have talked about moving out of the city into a greener space. We even prowled around nearby smaller towns looking at the possibilities of country-ish living. But we are city-dwellers, true city folk who like amenities that are close-by and pizza delivery. So instead of moving, we have launched a naturescaping project transforming our front and back yards into a forest experience. We have the trees already, eleven Western cedars that tower over our home like the cedars in my fave Tillamook forest. Those trees were the main feature that drew us to this house twenty years ago.

We’ve been using whatever free time we have sheet mulching and replanting using native forest plants indigenous to our area.   We are creating a space where a mini shinri-yoku experience can be had just by walking out our door.

 

It is like collage art, this new landscaping project. I am taking elements and layering them on top of each other to create something new just like I do when I make art. I tell Jerry that our yard is my favorite art project these days.

Of course I will still visit the nearby woodlands where we can escape the light and noise pollution of the city, and I am looking forward to summertime camping.  But it is a good feeling to create sanctuary in the middle of our city-life busyness, to have a peaceful setting despite the cacophony of living in a dense urban neighborhood. Having a little bit of wild at our doorstep is still, after all,  a little bit of wild. If only I could figure out how to landscape a river through our little yard…

What about you? Are you a city dweller or a city refugee? Where do you get your fill of wild, fresh air? The forest? The beach? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!

 

 


Comments

A Forest at Home — 11 Comments

  1. We live in the Eastern Cascades with USFS property within a 1/4 mile on three sides of our place. Its a setting that gives us much solitude and quiet. When we want a change of pace, we head to Stumptown or the Emerald City to experience a faster tempo and a concentration of human expression. The rhythm of the city stirs a different part of my soul, which I take back to my place of quiet and solitude.

    • Nice. Sounds A-mazing ! I am so in love with the forest, especially the old growth mossy forests of our gorgeous Pacific Northwest region. It has been a JOY to naturescape our front yard and take inspiration from the forest. I look forward to getting our backyard done next, and I really look forward to spending more time in the forest in my down time. It is rejuvenating, restorative… i read somewhere that it has been discovered that there are actually properties in trees that impact humans toward a sense of well-being. That we should all live in the forest, perhaps the world would be a more peaceful place.

      The hippies got it right : Go hug a tree !

      Thanks for commenting!

      • LoL. As you might have guessed, I’m on the dry side of the Cascades. I love to explore these transition zones where grasslands, sagebrush, old growth Ponderosas, and yes even some Juniper all live together. The place is teeming with wild life. Some of the deer seem to instinctively know that I won’t harm them (I don’t feed them), I’ve gotten as close as 5 feet from a mature doe without startling her. Several years ago, a huge five pointer decided to lay down on our back porch right next to our door. He rested there about 45 minutes and then took off up the hill. Of course, I don’t have that same connection with the occasional cougars that have passed through. 😉 There is nothing like watching a pair of bald eagles circling high above my house. Thanks for helping me appreciate my home, which, on days when its 10 below, will need all the help I can get. LoL!!!

  2. Oh, this brings back wonderful memories!. I miss living in Portland. At least I get to visit every summer.
    I live in Arlington. Va. now and it’s a county with lots of trees. Two blocks from my house I connect with a trail along a creek to the Potomac. Problem is the traffic and airplane noise.
    We don’t have the quiet of the old growth forests.
    My family also loved camping in the Cascades. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer 7 years ago, I asked my doctor if I should cancel my trip to Oregon. He told me to go and I’m so glad we did. I knew I needed to go to my favorite spot to get renewed. We headed out of Sisters to Three Creek Lake and hiked up the trail to a gorgeous view of Three Sisters. We sat a long time soaking it in and meditating. It filled my soul and gave me strength.
    Thanks for your beautiful writing.

    • HI Anne,
      Nice to have a trail so close to your house despite the noise pollution. How wonderful you were able to come to your beloved Oregon during your time of illness. So much healing and centering found in the forest. I haven’t explored the Sisters area very much, though when our kids were little we did some camping in that area near Bend. Beautiful country! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Hope you make it back to Portland this summer …. I think you will be shocked at the rapid changes, especially on the east side!

  3. Every time I head out for the mountains something deep within my soul heaves a sigh of relief. I can feel my muscles, bones, and even sometimes my vital organs relax and shed the stress of a life lived in the fast lane. The first testament to reveal the mysteries of God and the universe is not our holy books, Old Testament/New Testament or Koran, or Kabala. Our first testament, testimony, is nature, trees, oceans, fresh air, flora and fauna. These tell me ancient stories. And speak to me of the Creator, if I listen. I must listen. Exhale…

    • Deborah!!! Me too, me too, ME TOO!

      So beautifully written, poetic even. I will be announcing a news soon of how Jerry and I have acquired a place in the forest. Can’t wait to share it with you!

  4. I like to live close to the grocery store and my job and pizza delivery but I am also definitely a nature loving girl. Lucky for me, I live around the corner from the grocery store and still only 10 minutes from Riverside State Park where I can tramp through the woods along the beautiful Spokane River. I can’t wait to get my energy back so I can hit the trail again!

    • Sounds great, Nikki. Those of us living in the PNW are so fortunate to have the best of both city-living conveniences and easily accessed natural areas. I grew up in Vegas, not exactly known for the outdoors (though it’s there, beauty in the desert!). Living in this region gives us loads of opportunity to forest bathe as often as we like. It will be so good when you have this disease behind you and can turn to nature to rebuild your strength. My son’s doctors urged him to take up hiking to strengthen his leg bones as chemo weakened his joints. Thankfully he has to walk a lot of hills at his college campus down in Ashland, OR as a freshman this year. Hope your treatments are done soon!!!

  5. I love the way you write!
    I would love to experience your forest, hopefully one day I will. I’m a Beach girl living in the country side of Pittsburgh, PA. I need I ocean the way you need your forest! It’s hard being a landlocked mermaid!
    Your yards are looking beautiful.. I’m afraid my thumbs are more on the brown side.
    I hope you are thinking of the book you are getting ready to write! I would buy it in a heartbeat.

    • Thank you Linda :) …. !

      We are an hour and a half away from the ocean. We have spent many days over the years enjoying our wild Oregon coast. It is in recent years that the ancient old growth forests of my region have captured me and hold me spellbound. I’m not sure what that shift is about, but now when we plan a getaway, I look for places in the woods rather than at the beach. That’s how the idea came for landscaping, or rather naturescaping our front and back yard. We love camping and so we are taking our cues from the forest for inspiration to redesign our yard spaces. We have 11 cedars so it makes total sense.

      I hope to write more as my life changes seasons. I appreciate your encouragement!!!!

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