May the Forest Be With You!

2020 was a year with a lot of firsts for me:

First time quarantined

First time locked down

First time to wear a mask in public (other than Halloween)

First time to buy hand sanitizer in bulk

That’s just to name a few. 

But there was one other first – and it happened on a Zoom meeting (which early in the pandemic was another first!) sponsored by the Missouri Dept of Conservation.

I learned about “forest bathing”.

It turned out that I was a pioneer in this new concept.  It has been popular in the Ozarks for a long time, but people around here look at you funny if you call it forest bathing.

“Forest bathing” is defined as “being immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the forest.”  Not just taking a walk in the woods, which is another of my favorite things to do.  It is deeper than that.  It is taking time to breathe in the clean air, savor the smells around you.  The goal is to relax, unwind, and soak up the beauty & serenity of the forest.  Two hours is recommended, but not mandatory.

Though it may be therapeutic to talk to the trees, I find it more relaxing to listen to them

According to a study by the EPA, the average American spends 93% of their time indoors.  I love being way below average in that stat.

Some studies have shown that “forest bathing” can lower your blood pressure, strengthen your immune system, and greatly improve your mood.  The benefit of a good mood is not news.   Proverbs 17:22 wisely noted a half a millennium before Christ was born that “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (New Living Translation).

An article I read in the Wall Street Journal by Betsy Morris even posed the question “Is two hours outdoors the new 10,000 steps?”

Maybe.  Though I’d recommend both.

The goal is to reconnect with all five of your senses.

See the beautiful trees.

Smell the fresh air.

Hear the birds around you.

Taste is best experienced in the spring when delicious morel mushrooms pop up in obscure places.

Battered and fried morels are a delicacy in Cole County, Mo.

The sense of touch is often enhanced after you get back in the house after forest bathing and detect an itch in an obscure place.  My wife and I are used to assisting each other in checking for ticks in places that are difficult to reach and even more difficult to see. Where we grew up in the Ozarks, checking your spouse for ticks was considered foreplay. We could readily identify with Brad Paisley’s hit song “I’d like to check you for ticks.”

But that’s another blog.

Not the actual size. Thank goodness!

Word of advice:  before you go forest bathing, douse yourself liberally with insect repellent.

Otherwise, “forest dining” might accompany your “forest bathing”– with you as the main course for pesky mosquitoes and ticks.

One soft-spoken, enterprising young guy named Duncan Murdoch has created a free “Forest Bathing Life” iPhone app.  The basics are free.  There is a charge if you would like to upgrade and hire Duncan as your virtual forest bathing guide.

I’d say urban dwellers might find a personal forest bathing guide attractive. 

I guess my family is lucky. 

Forest bathing just comes natural to us. 

But I did love the line Duncan used on his “Forest Bathing Life” iPhone app:

“May the forest be with you!”

Our grandkids camping out in our woods – but still connected on my iPhone GPS.

What was I thinking!

My grandson Max following his scientific discovery

I like to take my six-year-old grandson Max with me when I run errands. I enjoy hearing things from his perspective. He likes to work me for ice cream and other goodies.

Win – Win

This afternoon we headed to the store to fill my wife’s shopping list. As we entered the store, Max inquired “Could we get a box of popsicles to take home?” Though I rarely say “no”, this was the first of several stops. Frozen treats to-go were not an option.

While Max was scanning our groceries at self check-out, I glanced at the snack bar. No long line. “How about getting an icee and drinking it here?” I asked.

Problem solved.

Icee’s in hand, we took a seat at a small table between automotive and the check-out lines. As I was engaging in people-watching, a favorite pastime of mine, I heard a noise of surprise from Max. His icee was undergoing a mini-volcanic eruption.

“I was just trying to make some bubbles” he explained. Splashes of icee lava covered the small table.

After expending a handful of napkins to clean up the icee eruption, he shared what his “What was I thinking?” moment had taught him:

NEVER BLOW INTO A ICEE!

I then shared a story from my checkered childhood that took place when I was about his age.

The year was 1954. Our family had just moved from a trailer park in the Chicago suburb of Melrose Park back to Springfield, Mo. so I could start the first grade at Tom Watkins Elementary school. We had towed our 25-foot mobile home right along with us and parked it in back of my grandparent’s home on North Broadway. To supply water, a hose was run from an outdoor faucet at my grandparents home to our compact, metal homestead.

Like a lot of things in my younger (and older) days, I am not sure what I was thinking. But for some inexplicable reason, I thought it would be a neat idea to poke a very small hole in the hose supplying our home with water with my pocket knife. “A six-year-old with a knife?” you may be asking. Remember, it was 1954. And we had just moved from a trailer park in Chicago.

It was harder than I expected to puncture that hose, but when I did, it didn’t just dribble as I expected. It shot out like a fire hose – right into the screened, open window above the kitchen sink where my Mom was standing washing dishes. I can still recall her shriek of surpise as the powerful stream of water doused her

My little experiment was a secret no more.

One new hose later, things were back to normal. I don’t recall if I got a spanking, but remember: it was 1954 when, unlike today, spanking was still considered a useful tool in the parental toolbox.

A very innocent looking and congenial me before the “hose incident”

Two generations later, my “Never poke a hole in a garden hose!” became my grandson’s “Never blow into a icee!”

Everybody makes mistakes. My goal is to avoid making the same mistake twice and to learn from other people’s mistakes. And to impart that wisdom to my grandson.

I seriously doubt Max will ever blow into an icee again. Or puncture a garden hose. Though he might try to talk some other unsuspecting kid into blowing into an icee. And he now loves to tell my garden hose story.

As Will Rogers observed, “Everything is funny, as long as it is happening to someone else.”

Note this picture of Will and compare it with my kid picture above. I may not be a great judge of what is and what is DEFINITELY NOT funny, but at least I kinda, sorta LOOKED like a great humorist when I was puncturing hoses at age 6.

Will Rogers, who was born just up the road from where I was born in Vinita, Oklahoma, died in a plane crash near Point Barrow, Alaska in 1935. That was thirteen years before I was born. His pilot was one-eyed Wiley Post, who also died in the crash. Will’s last words were rumored to be “Wiley, I think you have that patch on the wrong eye!!”