Life in the Forest
Trees and forests are very difficult to photograph and provide the viewer a true sense of their place. This picture gives you an idea of what the forest may be like, but to truly experience a forest, or even an individual tree, you need to be there. You need to be able to see the small details, the hundreds of symbiotic relationships that are present in a healthy forest. Life supporting life and everything dependent on the combined resources of the forest.
The picture has a beautiful old Western Red Cedar in the center. But can you tell from the picture that the tree is well over 500 years old and that it completely dwarfs its neighbors? And of course, you can’t see the other large old cedars nearby or the old growth Sitka Spruce just down the path. Nor can you feel the textures of the trees, the moss, or soft decay of the nurse logs. Then there are the combined smells of the old forest. The sweetness of flowers and new growth along with the musty odor of decay as the old trees become nourishment for the new.
What we have learned is all of this is good for you, and more specifically, good for your mental health. The peacefulness and solitude of the forest, the forest smell, and the surrounding air have been shown to lower our cortisol levels, increase serotonin, lower our blood pressure, and help calm our minds. And while you can look at a picture and imagine yourself in the setting, I encourage you to find a place near you and try it out for yourself. I’m blessed to live in the Pacific Northwest where we still have some wonderful old growth forests, but there are places everywhere that you can experience the benefits of the forests and outdoors in general. In the Midwest where I grew up, we had “forest preserves.” Every state has some version of the forest preserves. Many of the same benefit can be found in prairies and meadows, along rivers, lakes and oceans, or perhaps in a nearby park or even your backyard.
I’d love to hear about your nature experiences and how you’ve reconnected with the earth. Please comment and let us know.