Saturday, August 1, 2015

Southern Shinrin-Yoku

Although I live and breathe the city of Memphis, I am also a lover of Nature. Taking long walks on forest trails, watching the waves while sitting on a beach, or even just admiring mushrooms growing on the side of a rotting tree trunk - these are moments of pleasure for me. When I start to feel a bit worn out and mentally exhausted, I will visit a park for an hour or so and rejuvenate or at least feel somewhat dark elf again. The Japanese call this form of "therapy" shinrin-yoku, of which I learned about through my friend Emily.

Today proved to be no exception as I decided, while on my way to a coffee shop, that I needed to see and be around trees. I made a sharp turn and soon found myself on the road to Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, only thirty or so minutes north of Memphis. As I made my way to the park, I felt a sense of anticipation for the winding paths, overhanging trees and knowing that soon, I would no longer hear the sounds of the city. I was ready, complete with music from Lord Huron, a bottle of water, and gum.

Last year, I discovered a path that took me right to the Mississippi River and this time, I made sure to visit that area first, despite me wanting to stop on the side of the road to take photos of the numerous trees. I knew I would have time for that later, so I drove on to my first stop. Aside from several people driving their boats down to the river, I felt peace and serenity by just being there. It is quite soothing to watch the Mississippi sluggishly flow by, unhindered by time or petty things. The river simply is and that was all I needed. I soon drove off and returned to the forest.

Trees have always fascinated me; I like to think of them as silent sentinels forever protecting an area until the time came for them to awaken and fight. Yes, I am a lover of Lord of the Rings (grin). However, I knew that I was not going to see any Ents in Meeman, yet the appreciation was still there. At one point, I got out of my car to just enjoy the silence all the while wondering if anything watched me from their green hiding spots. Many times I looked around and I saw nothing, yet the feeling of being watched is hard to deny. I turned to face the thicket behind me, stared long and hard, and then returned to my car and drove off. I don't know if something was there, yet if so I hope they understood that I meant them no harm.

This may sound corny, but we are all connected. Going to a forest is a reminder of such statement. No person is an island, no matter how badly they want to be. As I saw this connection of vines and limbs, I wondered how long it took for them to make contact. How long had the trees "spoken" to each other on either side of the road and yet not been able to connect? Once they connected, did they still have things to "say"? I drove on.

I next arrived at a lake and rental boat area and knew I had to stop. There were several groups of people at the area and the lake gently moved and lapped against the bank. For a brief moment, I wondered if perhaps I had stumbled upon a lair of a water creature, unknown to even the books of Myth and Legend. Lived so long that humanity and the Otherworld had forgotten about it. The lake may have been man made, but the "creature" felt older than the park itself.

After being at the lake area for only several minutes, my foot caught a hole in the ground and I fell. I immediately turned around and sat on the grass while rubbing my knees, when suddenly this butterfly came out of nowhere and landed on my thumb. I forgot the pain and instead took several photos of my "friend" and wondered if perhaps it saw me fall and came to make me feel better. Surely, I thought as I took the butterfly's photo, this was a Tao moment. The butterfly stayed on my thumb for quite some time and I felt honoured to have received such a visitation. I got up and dusted myself off then slowly limped/walked along the bank while still taking photos. The shinrin-yoku was still in effect.

Sometimes, we all need to take a break from the rat race called Life. Sit down, have a cup of tea or water, and just relax. Read a book. Spend time with a loved one. Meditate. Something, anything, that will cause us to disconnect if only for five minutes. My shinrin-yoku was a success and the butterfly visit ended the adventure on a good and funny note.

Enjoy this song from Lord Huron - they are an amazing band to listen to while taking a road trip or just daydreaming.

Good Night.

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