When I am among the trees, I breathe slowly, deeply. I listen. I might sway with the treetops or I might be still and hushed in the company of shadows. My favorite seat in all the forest is cradled in the nook of tree roots beside a clear stream, and my favorite trail winds through ancient giants that let rays of sunlight pour through their fingertips to the ground below.
I have a thing for trees, but I’m not the only one. The Japanese call it Shinrin-Yoku, or Forest Bathing, and they have some 48 forest trails officially dedicated to the practice. All sorts of health benefits are associated with spending time in nature, reconnecting to her rhythms and our own natural state of being.
At Rites of Passage Wilderness Therapy, we call it “plugging into the nature channel.” With time, we begin to see how we are only part of a much grander whole. We begin to realize that we don’t have to be the whole forest, it is enough to be but one tree among many. It is enough to just be me. Among the trees, we draw nearer to the hope of our true self.
When I Am Among the Trees
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”