The ranger Henry David Thoreau coined the term “Walden”. He withdrew from society by moving to the Walden lake in the lonely woods of Massachusetts. His plan was to experience life in accordance with nature and away from civilization. This report of a radical self-experiment has become a classic and a cult book of alternative life.
If you want to experience the positive effects of the wood yourself, there is no need for such a radical step – you only need to go for a long walk in a nearby wood.
“In the tree of the wood, in every tree the wood is different.” Manfred Hinrich (1926 – 2015)
A bath in the woods?
In his book “The Biophilia Effect”, Clemens Arvay successfully summarizes what science has discovered concerning the effect woods can have. The plants of this ecosystem communicate via scents (the so-called “terpenes”). These terpenes have proven beneficial to humans too. But enough about the theory.
A bath in the woods calms down, purifies and relaxes. Yes, you’ve read correctly, a bath in the woods. Apparently, the Japanese invented the concept and, over time, recovering in the woods has developed into a veritable cult on the island state. It means attentive, aimless strolling and lingering in the woods whilst opening up all senses.
A closer look on nature
I switch off my “thought machine” and head off with my senses heightened. The path leads me over a horse pasture and past a fisher’s cabin, next to a small pond, into the woods. Some deciduous trees already present themselves in a seasonably colourful fashion. I leave the beaten track behind and decide to walk straight south. Of course, it would have been more comfortable to stay on the path. The forest floor is steaming and the roots are wet and slippery. Also, I have to overcome small obstacles. Bathing in the woods, I think to myself, well, here I am. In the wilderness. Okay, the next village is 3 km away, and yet, it feels like I’m quite far away from everyday life.
While I’m sat on a soft and cool moss pillow, leaning against a spruce and listening to the sounds of the wood, I feel much calmer than before. A small stream is gurgling, the sounds of various insects and the singing of the birds merge into a carpet of sounds. The air smells of earth and moss, it is rich and heavy, and in my head, I have already walked a few more steps. Suddenly, a crack and flapping sound interrupt the silence. A large bird is rising from the ground, leaving a sound between the branches that is slowly fading away into the distance. The harmonious buzzing and humming return. Thank you, heron, for taking me back into the here and now. Strolling aimlessly in the wood is easy. What does the resin of the spruce taste like? What does a stream without water sound like? Does the wood need the joy of humans? I exhale what the trees inhale and what I breathe in the trees give to me as a gift. Gratefulness and quiet joy is stirring in me. Can it be so simple?