I’ve mentioned before the weekly email from Brain Pickings, curated by Maria Popova. She now posts a midweek update from her 12 year archive. 12 years is pretty impressive. So this week it was a piece about the American poet Walt Whitman. He suffered a stroke in 1873. Recovery took him 2 years and that was greatly assisted by immersion in nature and its healing power. His thoughts, ideas and writing of this inwardly focused episode of his life were published as ‘Specimen Days and Collect’ in 1882. The publisher’s site reveals that ‘On page after page, a vast panorama of American life unfolds, and with it rare glimpse of Whitman as poet, empathetic observer, and romantic wanderer’.
As always, Maria’s discussion of the work is insightful and sensitive and she always manages to highlight essential truths. She quotes him on trees, ‘How strong, vital, enduring! how dumbly eloquent! What suggestions of imperturbability and being, as against the human trait of mere seeming. Then the qualities, almost emotional, palpably artistic, heroic, of a tree; so innocent and harmless, yet so savage. It is, yet says nothing.’
There is now a current acceptance that spending time in the forest, or woods, or just the great outdoors is beneficial for both our mental and physical wellbeing. The Japanese have termed this ‘forest bathing’. This is bathing in the broadest sense of being immersed in the environment and doesn’t involve water.
I have mentioned before that we are fortunate to have a park and trail very close to us and we walk the loop through both park and woods every day. Our daily forest bathing is certainly beneficial for both of us.