Call to the Forest: A Guide's Journey
We can bumble along in our lives putting little thought into how we fill our time until one day, out of the blue, we make a statement that changes the course of everything we do. That’s what happened to me.
As my daughter was growing up, I had been a baker. For 17 years I attended Farmers’ Markets selling prepared foods and it had taken its toll on my body. As well as sore knees and hips, I had an unhealthy addiction to sugar and I wasn’t feeling well. My blood tests showed I was just on the edge of diabetes.
I was definitely ready for change, but sometimes, you just can’t see the forest for the trees. – pun intended.
One day, I found myself leaning against a tree, struck by the beauty of all that surrounded me. Bender came by to see what I was up to. I looked down wistfully and said, “Bender, I’d like a new vocation that allowed me to do this very thing: wander - in the forest.”
After our walk in the forest, we headed back into the house. I put another log on the fire, filled the kettle for tea and sat down at my computer to check my face book. At the top of the page I found a prompt for an article on Shinrin Yoku.
Hey, didn’t I just say…?
One article lead to another and then another and then on to the site of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs. A quick look at their interactive guide location map led me to the web site of Forest Therapy Guide Ben Porchuck – he was leading a walk in two weeks.
I signed up. It was Kismet.
“Are you here for the Forest Therapy walk?” She came toward me and mentioned that she was yet didn't know where to go. She came toward me and said she was and this was the third location she had been sent to. I mumbled ‘you win’ under my breath and let her know she needed to head back to the main building to find the group. Back at the main building we met up with a small group milling around the front desk. Apologies were given all round; the walk, it was explained, was new to the facility.
Our Guide, Ben Porchuk was there in the middle of it all and prepared us for what we were about to experience.
He explained we would be walking a short distance, moving slowly and taking part in a series of invitations that were just that – optional suggestions of ways to sample nature with our senses.
Within 15 minutes, all my anxiousness and frustration leading up to the beginning of the walk had melted away. It was clear Forest Therapy had something very special to offer me.
An invitation called Camera had me introducing another participant to a beautiful patch of moss dotted with newly fallen wet snow. We were transfixed by the beauty and brilliance of nature.
Forest Therapy Guides are required to be aware of edible and harmful plants, have a connection and comfort level with forests and wildlife and possess a desire to facilitate that connection in others. They say the forest is the therapist and as guides, we open the door. It’s a journey I have only just begun and I look forward to this new chapter in my life with renewed passion in my life. I ask you, what could be better than wandering in the forest?
On a cold winter day I asked and the forest answered. I listened.
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of Forest Therapy Guides to see if there is one in your area to lead you or a group on a walk.