Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘Forest Bathing

Admittedly Isolated

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I’m home alone with the animals again this weekend and contemplating the incredible peacefulness and beauty that I enjoy the luxury of experiencing here every day. This morning the horses radiated peacefulness under a foggy wet blanket of sound-dampening air. It was Delilah who disrupted things every so often with her random barks of alarm over imagined threats that really don’t deserve to be barked at from my perspective.

As I methodically made my way around the paddocks to scoop up recent manure piles, my mind meandered through so many trials and tribulations that we aren’t facing.

Our country has not been invaded and bombed by a bordering nation that was pretending to be doing our people a favor. Our region has yet to be torched by wildfires or swamped by unprecedented flash flooding. Extremist politicians haven’t maliciously trafficked hapless immigrants to our doorstep. We are not experiencing a shortage of food or potable water. We are not struggling with the debilitations of long-COVID infection.

The much more benign burdens directly impacting me this day include two issues that aren’t happening as swiftly as I wish. I’m wondering if the technician who will splice our fiber optic cable at the base of the utility pole across the street from our driveway works on Saturdays. Nobody showed up by the end of the day yesterday even though the cable to our house was buried last Tuesday.

I’m also anxious to receive a promised bid from our favorite excavating business regarding the landscaping of the slopes on either side of our new driveway. We’ve decided the job is too big to accomplish on our own and will require a truckload of dirt they can provide. It’s been a week since he was here to discuss the issues.

It’s pretty easy for me to preach about having a positive attitude about how great it is to be alive when I reside in a sanctuary of natural beauty and affluent comforts. I am sensitive about boasting too assertively from our admittedly isolated circumstances in the world, but my perspective is coming from having successfully treated a depression that shadowed much of my earlier life.

Our daughter is enduring the stress of knowing a vulnerable adult who walked out of her music school before his father did and has now been missing for days. Our hearts ache for those who are suffering.

I walk through our woods to a soundtrack of calling birds and water droplets coming down from wet tree leaves, the autumn aromas of fallen leaves just beginning to become noticeable. The horses huff a big sigh as I show up to clean the area beneath the overhang and serve up their pans of feed.

What can I do but send the love I experience out into the universe to flow toward all who face difficulties that I struggle to fathom, recognizing the privilege of my isolation.

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Forest Fun

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Notice: This post includes content of carnivorous canine detail.

Walking in the woods at the lake is easy now that all the undergrowth has gone dormant for the winter. Allowing Delilah to explore every scent is a spectacle of mania. She can hardly contain herself in a rush to discern and follow the myriad options. Eventually, she did come upon one smell that overrode all others, a recently detached leg of deer.

After she closed her jaws on that prize, nothing else mattered.

We let her gnaw on it for a while and then I took her for a walk to see if she might decide to bury it somewhere for safekeeping. It was a long walk while I explored the wooded slope near the driveway in search of remains from a fort the kids and I constructed out of branches some twenty years ago.

I never found any evidence of our creative efforts now decades past and Delilah never let go of her prize.

When we finally made our way back to head indoors for a drink of water, I negotiated that leg out of her mouth and covered it with leaves beside the driveway for her.

Content with that for the moment, she gladly led the way inside. The next time we took her outside, we figured that would be the first thing she headed for, but we were wrong.

Now with both Cyndie and me setting out for a stroll with her, she seemed very willing to leave those bones for another time. We strode into the deep leaves covering the ground in search of the next great find among the trees. What we came upon this time was a new idea.

We want to create a small labyrinth path around existing trees in an area that is almost level.

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There are a lot of rocks available and a fair bit of old trash to clean up that contributed to our urge to pursue the possibility. It appears the old fishing lodge that existed here originally may have used the woods as their dump for trash at some point.

I stepped out dimensions and aligned an initial orientation with the four directions north-south/east-west and with each accomplishment, our idea gained merit. Late last night, we scanned labyrinth design options for something simple yet interesting and now will try to visualize fitting one of them around the trees.

This will likely be a project that develops over years to become fully established as we intend to keep the woods as natural as possible and have the circular pathways be noticeable, but subtly so.

A forest bathed meditative walking labyrinth seems like a very fun idea. Here’s hoping we can bring it to fruition up at our favorite place.

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Written by johnwhays

October 23, 2021 at 9:13 am

Conflicting Thoughts

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There’s a battle raging in the available space of my brain between the wonderful goodness all around us and the repeated failings of improvement where the needs are well known. We just heard an update on progress to vaccinate for COVID-19 that lamented the low percentage of the neediest people receiving shots, despite the advanced knowledge that this should be the priority. Even when there is broad public awareness of the need to get the first vaccinations to the communities most impacted by the virus, insufficient effort to make this come about leaves things to play out as usual with the advantage going to people of privilege.

It is a lot easier to talk about what “should” happen than it is to actually enact the changes needed to achieve high ideals.

Sounds a little like the way things always go in our governmental system. Two-party politics for passing legislation advancing the lofty goals of a nation results in a lot of sounding off but very little in the way of bringing lasting positive change. Progress is slow for the poor and disenfranchised citizens of our country.

We have passed the 1-year milestone since the pandemic took over all of our lives and Cyndie and I have thus far dodged illness. Others we know have not been so lucky, including some who are currently suffering symptoms. We are sending love to those of you experiencing the virus first-hand.

News reports announcing crazy-high numbers of small earthquakes in Iceland, combined with several other notable recent quakes around the planet suggest something big is about to go boom. It’s a strange threat to contemplate from our relatively stable geographic landscape.

A strong spring melt is underway at Wintervale and the chickens are thrilled over the ever-expanding “tillable” terrain becoming exposed again.

The south-facing slopes are free of snow but the rest of the forest is still covered like the surfaces of an old-fashioned freezer. Walking the trails is a fascinating demonstration of how much chill emanates from the icy carpet below.

Delilah loves to pause and rub her face in the snow-cone texture. Her head was all wet at the end of a walk yesterday from rolling in the slushy snow.

It’s incredibly calm and soothingly optimistic with the promise of spring unfurling right before our eyes. The animals all seem giddy and I guess that is contagious.

It’s a welcome contrast to the more unsettling thoughts looming.

Here’s to visions of the days ahead when COVID sufferers can come walk our trails, breathe the health of our forest air, and hang out with our chickens for a while.

We’ll send you home with fresh free-range eggs.

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Written by johnwhays

March 6, 2021 at 10:28 am

Off Trail

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Given the relatively long span of time with no snowfall, getting off the trails to explore our woods has proved revealing of late. Delilah and I came upon at least three hazardous waste sites. Me suspects the local raccoons have a luxurious condominium in the trees above this spot.

That’s more scat than I care to encounter in any one place. Wish they’d learn to bury their messes.

Farther along, it was hard to miss the calling card of one large antler-bearing white-tail deer. This buck also did a fair amount of pawing the ground in the vicinity of this scraping.

As we made our way down a slope where Delilah raced ahead while I scrambled to navigate the leash, and my body, around and under the tree debris she wove through, I thought I saw a big squirrel on the ground ahead. When Delilah ignored it and passed by in pursuit of a fresher scent, I saw that it was simply a long ago dried out scrap of furry hide from what I guessed to be a deer.

Later, after Delilah’s chase instinct had calmed down, I turned us back to look for that fur so I could take a picture. As so often happens in the woods, I couldn’t find it a second time. Unfortunately, we had no problem coming back to unsightly piles of scat, but nothing that stood out like a body of a dead squirrel that was obvious the first time we passed it.

Unless something smells freshly of death or walked by in the last few hours, Delilah’s nose seems to hold little interest. She walked past this bone with nothing more than a glance.

The white color made it stand out distinctly.

Actually, fresh presence doesn’t always guarantee Delilah will notice. Last night in the final walk before she retires to her crate (her “den”) for the night, my high-beam flashlight caught two little eyes reflecting about 50 meters ahead. I kept my eyes and the beam on the two reflecting spots as we closed the distance, while Delilah focused on whatever scent her nose to the ground was picking up.

Eventually, the creature decided to move off the trail and I could see it was a domestic-looking cat. My flashlight beam picked up the reflecting eyes again in the brush just off the trail, so I knew it hadn’t run off entirely. As we came abreast, I stared at the cat in my light beam and it stared back at me, while Delilah just passed right on by with her nose still to the ground, oblivious.

Never a dull moment on our thrice-daily (minimum) jaunts around the property for Delilah’s benefit.

Even more so when I decide we get to venture off-trail.

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Written by johnwhays

December 13, 2020 at 10:56 am

Buckthorn Season

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In addition to looking for antlered bucks in the woods this time of year, I am also hunting for buckthorn. Common buckthorn is an invasive tree that I strive to control on our property. In the fall, buckthorn holds its deep green leaves longer than most other growth in our forests, making it easier to spot.

It’s not foolproof though, because I always seem to find a large enough tree that reveals I must have missed it the year before. I think the main reason for this is buckthorn is not the only growth that still has leaves after the majority of the forest turns brown and barren. There is at least one other bush that confuses my hunt.

The main difference I have found is the relative color of green, as can be seen in the picture I took yesterday while Delilah and I were forging our way off-trail to dispatch every invasive we could find. The batch of leaves on the left are a buckthorn I just cut down that must have been missed the year before. The noticeably lighter green leaves on the right are the primary bush that complicates my identifying the unwelcome buckthorn.

When I look into the trees on my neighbor’s unmanaged land, there is an obvious spread of green growth, but ours holds just a fraction of that, only a few of which are the deep green buckthorn.

With this year’s quick jump to Arctic cold and several doses of early snow, the buckthorn hunting season has been shortened. Luckily, I had already done a first-pass through to address the sprouts of growth that are small enough to easily pull by hand before the ground started to freeze.

At that time, I didn’t have my hand saw with me, so I took a mental note of the larger trees I wanted to come back to cut down. When I set out to do that yesterday, I almost failed to find that tree shown in this picture. I needed to get to a place where just the right angle of view made it stand out.

Delilah loves that we need to roam into the middle of the areas we rarely visit, as she is able to find all sorts of disgusting things left behind by the wild forest animals that romp around on our land.

I’m satisfied with the progress this year and ready to consider the hunt complete. There was less growth than previous years, so our efforts are definitely paying off. The view into the adjacent property confirms it.

Our woods look distinctly more managed and that makes trekking through them for year-round forest bathing that much more rewarding.

Huzzah!

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Storm Damage

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By the looks of the driveway alone, up at the lake, it is obvious that there was some heavy rain. There is evidence of a flash flood of runoff that washed gravel away into the woods. Farther along on the property, we discovered that the big eagles’ nest had also succumbed to the deluge. There was debris of sticks and dead fish on the ground at the base of the tree. Looking up, the size of the structure had shrunk considerably.

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Still, the two youngsters remained perched, one on a branch above, and one on what was left of the nest. We occasionally hear them calling out to the adults who are the source of their meals. I would expect the stinky fish that landed below to eventually be picked up and delivered above again. It’s not like they’re past their expiration date or anything.

Getting the fish bodies up off the ground would make it a little easier to walk Delilah that direction. It takes a lot of muscle to steer her clear of trying to roll around in all the stench.

On a whim, I decided to be adventurous and take Delilah for an explore in the woods across the highway from our property. As soon as we made our way beyond the thicket of growth along the berm beside the road and got into the spacious forest beneath the spectacular canopy of the tall trees, I discovered the hazard of my decision.

All that rain seems to have unleashed a ferocious new batch of teeny mosquitos. They were unrelenting in their onslaught. I tried to keep moving to foil their attempts to land, but Delilah –lacking the exposed flesh I presented– didn’t share my urgency. She kept stopping to smell every enticing forest odor and, still on leash, frequently chose a path that had us at odds over which side of tree trunks to be on.

I had to cut our expedition short and set a course straight back to the bright sunlight of the roadway.

Things were much calmer when we got to the beach and I let her soak in the water while I stood on the sand taking a sunbath and listening to loons.

By that point, the storm damage was out of sight and out of mind. Almost the same for the chaos of the preceding week.

I will continue this course of therapy for a couple of days. It seems to be just what a doctor would order for what was ailing me.

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Written by johnwhays

August 10, 2019 at 7:51 am

Leaves Again

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They’re ba-aack! Walking through the woods is a wonderful change when the leaves return. We’ll be breathing a whole ‘nother level of healthy air on our strolls, with tree leaves breathing again.

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Looking uphill, and down, the greenery is dramatically more noticeable with each passing day.

Hopefully, none of these new leaves succumbed to frost overnight. The incredibly wet weekend transitioned into uncomfortably cold yesterday, bringing on a frost advisory that had Cyndie covering her newly planted flowers.

I don’t want to look.

I’m going to keep my eyes on a future day when summer warmth becomes established with more than the fleeting glimpses we have been treated to thus far this spring.

At least having a forest of green leaves again is a start.

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Written by johnwhays

May 20, 2019 at 6:00 am

Happening Now

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I’ve witnessed the evidence in my lifetime.

The trend is undeniable. Feel free to argue the cause.

I claim human activity is responsible.

For the time being, at least we still have trees.

I need to plant more trees.

I heard an ominous story on news radio during my commute home yesterday that highlighted the concerns of owning animals at a time when growing hay to feed them is getting harder to do successfully.

We have hay in our shed for this winter, but future years are not guaranteed. It pains me that our green grass is too rich for granting full-time access to our horses. We end up feeding them hay year-round.

It’s awkward. Like being adrift in the ocean, surrounded by water that you can’t drink.

It will be tough if we reach a point where there isn’t enough hay to feed all the grazing livestock.

It’s not a single issue calamity at risk, though. There are plenty of other aspects of the warming planet that are simultaneously having an impact. I’d sure hate to be in the insurance industry now that we are experiencing waves of increasing intensity severe weather events.

I can’t figure out how they will be able to cover the ever-increasing expenses for claims from the devastation of storm after storm.

I wonder what it will be like here six years from now. We don’t currently have a long-range plan worked out for the ranch. The initial improvements we put in place upon arrival have sufficed for a few years now. There isn’t a lot more we need to do beyond maintaining the buildings and grounds as they are.

Simply responding to the ongoing climate slide may become our main challenge.

I suppose I could always focus on marketing our paradise as a place to Forest Bathe.

I really should be planting more trees.

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Written by johnwhays

October 25, 2018 at 6:00 am

Woods Changing

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Fall has arrived and it sure feels like it outside this morning. There is a distinct chill in the air, despite the ongoing global warmup occurring.

Well before the fall landscape color palette changes from green to red/orange/yellow, an inside view reveals the impending change.

There aren’t a lot of leaves on the ground yet, but there is a definite thinning of foliage going on. Delilah and I were traipsing along the soggy trail yesterday when I took the above picture. Times like this bring great appreciation for the “boardwalk” we envisioned in one of the swampy spots of our trails. It is an ongoing installation of blocks I remove from shipping pallets I salvage from the day-job.

Once again, it is getting easier to leave the trail and bushwhack through our woods to explore rarely visited spaces. I think this may subtly contribute to a universal attraction people share for fall, along with the obvious colorization and comfortable dew point temperatures. The woods open up and provide easy accessibility.

Friday night the easy access seemed to invite a noisy visitor to the grove of trees just beyond our house. Delilah spends many precious minutes every day barking in response to the sound of neighboring dogs miles away. Friday, that neighboring bark came from darkness just beyond the reach of our flood light.

Oddly, Delilah felt no need to respond, although she took great interest in our sudden fascination with the mysterious trespasser outside the back door. My guess was the stray visitor had treed a raccoon, or squirrel, or turkey and was “shouting” at it.

Last evening, during our last big walk of the day, I let Delilah’s nose direct us off-trail through the woods along the many odd paths frequently traveled by a variety of resident critters.

I also put fresh batteries in the trail camera to resume monitoring the night life visiting the chicken coop.

It was a very quiet night there last night. No motion until almost 6:00 this morning, when a cat wandered past.

We took down the netting around the coop yesterday, making it easy again to clean the poop board, so maybe traffic will pick up with time. Not that we wish for that. I just see it as inevitable.

Inevitable like the end of summer growing season, which is marked by the first real overnight freeze. I’m in no particular rush for that, other than a desire to be done mowing the grass for another year.

With the woods changing noticeably, and the noted chill greeting us this morning, we sense the big freeze isn’t far off.

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Written by johnwhays

September 23, 2018 at 9:38 am

Forest View

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I’m no expert, but I’m willing to venture a guess that a tree that sprouts leaves in the spring, but can’t get them to grow any larger than the tip of a finger, is going through the slow process of dying.

I’ve been watching this tree out our bathroom window for several weeks. It is particularly noticeable because all the rest of the trees around it opened up gorgeous full-sized leaves on their branches.

That standout stalled at the earliest stage of sprouting leaves.

I’m now doubting its likelihood of catching up.

Looking out that window yesterday, it occurred to me how many months of the year that view opens deep into the wooded slope, looking across a carpet of brown fallen leaves covering the ground.

That spot is a favorite for rambunctious squirrels that put on Ninja Warrior obstacle course demonstrations, bringing Delilah to an uncontrollable outburst of window-screen destruction and flurries of loud barking in the front porch.

This time of year, that section of forest becomes an enchanting mystery. I love the darkness that develops under the canopy of shady leafed-out trees. When the sun is really bright, it makes that darkness even more intense.

Last year, in August, I posted about the Inviting Portals that beckon a visit into the benefits of breathing the forest air. I find those darkened openings irresistibly captivating.

I’m convinced that I receive equally beneficial psychological rewards simply from absorbing the glorious views of the walls of trees that tower along the edges of our forest and fields.

It’s never clear what the change from bare trees to leafy ones will bring. Branches along the trail that were overhead all winter will often surprise me with how much they droop under the added weight of leaves come spring.

After a brief, yet energized thunderstorm yesterday afternoon, some of the young trees around the house failed to hold their posture under the added weight of wetted leaves.

So, we’ve got trees with not enough leaves and trees with more leaves than they can support, but they are each an exception. The rest of the forest is as picturesque as ever now, providing views that invite and inspire.

Forest views that feed my soul tremendously.

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Written by johnwhays

May 30, 2018 at 6:00 am