A recent article in the Globe and Mail confirms the value of forest therapy. Now, that’s a value I’ve always treasured, but when I express something similar, folks look at me strangely. I can see in their eyes the query, “Are you some kind of weird woodsy throwback? What about all the mosquitoes? Just tell me where to find the nearest Starbucks.” Ah, but wait.
Cassandra Szklarslo writes about “the forest-bathing movement…which is a cornerstone of preventive health care in Japan.” Forest-bathing?? Weird. The article explains that they’re not talking about bathing in water but “immersing oneself in the healing properties of trees.…A walk in the woods can be great for boosting your mood.…A burgeoning group of nature enthusiasts say it can do much more—including strengthen immunity, lower blood pressure, increase focus, and ultimately lower health-care costs if done regularly.”
Data collected in Japan and Korea found that “forest-bathers” had an increased number of “immune system cells that combat disease.” “It involves simply walking—quietly, slowly and deliberately—in a forest, and taking in the sounds, scents, colours, forms and general vibe of nature.”
I’ve always loved the outdoors, from the fields near our home to the creek that gurgled through a nearby valley. Probably it was that love that led me to study forestry in my undergraduate years. I’ve never understand why some declare; “If you’ve seen one tree, you’ve seen them all.” Every tree enthrals me; from the stately umbrella-shaped American Elm to the majestic White Pine.
I’m not surprised by the article. Many people appreciate the natural world. But what deepened my love was an experience with the Creator of that world. In my second year of university, He sent a gospel shaft of conviction into my heart. I became a simple follower of Jesus. It was as if I unexpectedly was fitted with a hearing aid; or as if a light went on in the dark room of my mind. Suddenly it seemed as if “all nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres,” for “this is my Father’s world!” “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).
As this Psalm reminds us, it’s not just trees that should cause our mouths to drop open in awe and our hearts to sing God’s praises. No, it’s stars and clouds, birds and flowers, the roll of breakers on a beach, the colours of pebbles on a shore, snowflakes and rainbows. It’s more; even the undulation of sand dunes in a desert, the giggle of a child, and the smile of a wrinkled senior. For He made them all.
Oh, I know, there is trash in the ocean and war among nations. We are doing our best to ruin God’s world. But beneath and beyond all that disturbs, if we have redeemed eyes to see, remains the matrix that displays the creativity and artistic genius of Almighty God. This matrix reminds us to breath deeply of God’s love and grace and point people to the beauty intrinsic to the world we live in.
Besides we live in hope! “He will make all things new.” In the meantime, “all the trees of the field will clap their hands” whenever God reclaims territory in our ruined world by the spread of his spiritual kingdom in human hearts. (See Isaiah 55:11,12).
(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca –Follow him on Facebook: Eric E Wright; on Twitter: @EricEWright1 and on LinkedIn: Eric Wright )