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.
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.
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!