Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘Forest Bathing

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

Tall Trees

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Since it hurt too much to lift my left leg enough to do any pedaling, and it was hot as a baker’s oven outside in the sun, Delilah and I spent most of our walks yesterday in the woods. With all the leaves back in force, it feels a lot more like what I think “forest bathing” is all about.

We were breathing it in to the fullest.

At one point, I paused to marvel over some of our tall trees.

That one on the right has a lot of character. It is one of my favorites on our land.

Other than the wonderful walks in our woods, this long Memorial holiday weekend has been a bit of a bust for me.

I had hoped to put on some extended mileage in the bike saddle, especially because I was home alone. Instead, I spent a lot of time power lounging.

I didn’t even get around to mowing tall grass with the brush cutter behind the diesel tractor because the heat scared me off.

It’s growing tall enough that it looks like July out there already. With a head start like this, I’m very curious what the un-mowed areas will look like in a couple of months.

As always, it will come down to how much, and how often, rain falls.

For the time being, after that 4-plus inch deluge last week, it appears as though we are right where we want to be. The tall trees, and every other growing plant it seems, are all looking happy as ever.

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Written by johnwhays

May 28, 2018 at 6:00 am

Uninvited Company

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The weather was spectacular yesterday for walking our woods on the second Sunday of October. Unfortunately, it brought out more than just our invited guests.

I don’t know where they’ve been hiding until now, or whether they just coincidentally arrived from somewhere else on a day when the warm sunshine inspired hoards to congregate on warm surfaces, but the Asian Lady Beetle infestation has begun with a vengeance.

We’ve suffered their invasions in the past, so it’s not a total shock to see them again. Last year their numbers were low, and it was relatively easy to disregard them.

I don’t ever remember such a stark transition in a day, going from seeing none to suddenly having them arrive en masse.

In fact, I didn’t see any of them in the morning, but by afternoon they were everywhere and became an instant nuisance.

Cyndie was using the grill on our deck to cook dinner and the invaders were all over the outer screen door when she opened the inside door. I batted the screen to shoo them off and was surprised to find they were all on the inside of the screen.

As darkness fell and lights came on in the house, the bothersome bugs were already flying around lightbulbs and occasionally landing on us.

The small shop-vac was getting a good workout last night. Something tells me it is going to become a permanent fixture in our living space this winter.

I will also be maintaining my vigilant use of a cover on my ice-water cup, but with a renewed sense of priority for a while.

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Written by johnwhays

October 9, 2017 at 6:00 am

My Choice

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The other day I picked up a pitchfork and worked up a sweat stirring compost. It was late afternoon and I was already tired from a full day of chores, so my energy was waning. My arms sent a notice of complaint to my brain.

“Tired. Don’t feel like working anymore.”

It occurred to me that, despite a prevailing mindset to use machines to do all our exhausting tasks, I prefer the precise control I can achieve with hand tools. I’m not as fast as a machine, and I tire easily, but I get more satisfaction.

In my head, I imagined someone interrupting my effort to suggest I use the bucket on the tractor, because I was huffing and puffing, straining at the effort, and breaking a good sweat.

I actually like the exercise, despite my body complaining that it is tired.

How hard is it to convince yourself to get up early and go to the gym for a healthy workout? The body would rather remain at rest, for sure. But to be physically fit, we have to push ourselves out of that resting comfort zone.

Next, I imagined myself at the gym, huffing and puffing at the effort to work my arms, lifting weight. Would someone suggest that there is a machine to do that for me, so I don’t have to work so hard?

I choose my pitchfork.

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Written by johnwhays

September 13, 2017 at 6:00 am

First Aroma

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It was one week ago that I wrote about the waning days of summer and my noticing colored leaves in our grass beneath the tree that always turns early. Now, on the last day of August, it’s probably right on schedule that I noticed my first scent of dry leaves in our woods.

It doesn’t even look like there are enough leaves on the ground to be noticeable, but the smell is there.

I was doing some forest bathing with Delilah and breathing in the aroma as we walked the trail. It made me think of September, and then I realized that the month begins tomorrow.

The smell may not be early, but it seems like it is.

Last night was a gorgeous summer evening with a perfect temperature and fabulous sky when Delilah and I headed out later in the evening to tuck the chickens in their coop for the night. The horses had wandered through the open gate out onto the grass of the middle pasture again, and the scene was a perfect picture-postcard moment.

In sharp contrast to the travails of so many other people and places in the world, the sanctuary of our property is quite the healing balm for whatever assails my being.

The aroma of fallen leaves comes as a particularly precious added bonus.

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Written by johnwhays

August 31, 2017 at 6:00 am

Tree Love

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It always seems to come back to the trees for me. Even though our horses are key to the whole operation, they don’t provide near the atmosphere here (literally) as do the trees.

Despite my love of trees, I find it unsatisfyingly easy to take them for granted. Today’s post is an effort to make up for that.

I discovered a long time ago that trees and I share a similar limit to high altitudes. Every time I get above the tree line in mountainous regions, I begin to feel ill. I guess, if they don’t have enough oxygen to thrive, I don’t either.

Wintervale has some nice grazing available on open fields, but as you can see in this image, our forest of trees tower right up to the back of the barn. Our log house is nestled, out of sight, behind the first few of those green monsters.

When the french doors to the deck are open, we are effectively forest bathing from within our living room, breathing in the aromatic phytoncides.

I love the shade our trees offer, the sounds they make in the wind, the changes they display through the seasons, and the wood they provide when they die.

I have never been responsible for as many acres of trees as we have now, and though the task is often daunting, I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity. Tending the forest isn’t as simple as mowing the fields, but I definitely prefer it.

The primary stepping off point for our adventure to seek out and eventually purchase this Wintervale paradise was our visit to Ian Rowcliffe in Portugal. It is wonderfully fitting that Ian and I first discovered each other in an online community discussion item on the subject of trees, about seven years earlier.

For some reason the other day, I cropped out the hammock in the image I posted on Sunday.

I think I like this one better. It tells more of the truth. Makes me feel like napping every time I look at it, though.

My life would be so much drearier without all the majestic maples, oak, poplar, pine, elm, ash, and butternut crowns forming a canopy over the back half of our precious plot. I absolutely love our trees.

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An addendum to yesterday’s post: In case you were curious, the intuition was fading, as it took me a couple tries to get to the bottom of the problem, but I eventually found the reason the pump wasn’t coming on was a tripped ground fault interrupt. Problem easily solved.

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Written by johnwhays

August 15, 2017 at 6:00 am

Inviting Portals

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When it comes to forest bathing, we have a wide variety of enticing portals inviting one to dip a toe…

It’s enough to make a person want to dive right in to breathe the immunizing forest air.

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Can you feel yourself inhaling deep at the sight?

We also have portals leading to open and airy trails along the borders of our fields.

Stepping through this last opening brings you to the entrance to our Rowcliffe Forest Garden Labyrinth, a large 11-circuit Chartes labyrinth. It lies just out of sight to the right of the opening, which I think makes this portal the most enticing of all.

Plus, the labyrinth is tucked up against the edge of our main forest, so walking the circuitous path provides an added side-benefit of breathing the health emanating from the trees.

Our paradise beckons with irresistible enticements. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself to figure out I’m not dreaming.

This morning, the trees are silent in the calm, moist summer air. Out our open windows and doors I hear the mesmerizing music of the pond waterfall, singing birds, and chirping insects. Most importantly, that is all I hear. There is no sound of traffic. No planes, trains, or automobiles.

Mornings like this are priceless.

It’s not that we are immune to the sounds of mechanization. We do experience the occasional passing of small planes. Warm weekends might offer up the roar of a passing train of motorcycles buzzing along County N toward the El Paso Bar and Grill. The neighboring fields get plowed, planted, and harvested by large farm tractors as the season dictates.

Finally, if it’s not the neighbors, it’s our own doing to be shattering the bucolic ambiance with the droning whine of small gas engines with a trimmer, chainsaw, or lawn mower.

It’s a necessary evil of creating and maintaining the inviting portals that grace our little nook in the beautiful countryside of western Wisconsin.

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