Is there a possibility, even faintly, that when we are working in our yards that we are connected to the growing forest therapy trend?
There is little question that after pulling weeds, watering reluctant grass seed, bleeding from the prick of a rose thorn, and being drenched by sprinklers that I am not in line with several benefits touted by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy.
Oak Openings Preserve Metropark was named ‘one of the last great places on earth’ by Nature Conservancy. The park is home to 180 rare species of plants and animals.
According to research, people who subscribe to the therapeutic nature program are happier, and anger and frustrations are reduced after immersion in forests and other natural environments. Health benefit claims even include cardiovascular and the immune system.
It is also said to be one way to pry people away from their cell phones.
The program is inspired by the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku , which translates to forest bathing.
I am not a member of the association, but there is something to be said for getting out and playing in the dirt, smelling the roses, and seeing the first blades of grass after you have diligently watered the seeds for weeks.
There is no question but what physical work might accompany any therapy that is received. Your knees get dirty and your back aches the next few days. But it is also invigorating, and to me far more interesting than going to the gym.
It’s like John Muir, the famous American naturalist said, “In every walk with nature, one receives more than he seeks.”
After waiting six weeks for a professional landscaper to show up, I attacked the problem and enjoyed the idea of saving $75 an hour that he would have charged. It’s like the forest bathers preach, working with the plants reduces stress and povides the satisfaction of getting the job done.
There is even a theory that the plants release chemicals that have a positive effect on our bodies.
I don’t know about the chemicals, but I do know that the ongoing aviary concert coming from the trees and roof tops is not just nature’s music to my ears, but that it sends a wave of contagious joy.
When the birds are singing, you just feel better.
I believe the back yard of my darling green bungalow has become a bird sanctuary of sorts, perhaps because I keep the feeders full and make sure the orioles have grape jelly. The birds also take advantage of the food handouts left on the porch for mystery four legged visitors.
At dusk, I can count on six or eight chirping birds flying low and a couple that land on the porch railing. I really don’t care what kind they are. To me they are happy birds with full tummies. Do I talk to them? What do you think?
However, this summer there have been several infant tragedies in the bird population. Three little first time flyers have fallen from their nests.
It is sad to watch and to hear their cries. I did coax one baby robin into a plastic bag and transferred it into a box, and gave it water in a dish. But it cried so loud and its legs were not broken, so I released it to hide under a peony bush hoping mama robin would come to the rescue.
The forest therapy trend is no doubt a worthwhile stress release for big city folks who live in concrete jungles with limited vegetation.
That is far from the case for residents of northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.
We fortunately are privy to hundreds of wooded areas where Mother Nature is the gracious hostess year-round, but it’s this time of year that she puts out a spread of green growth.
Here are three favorites for your summer nature walks.
■ Forest “bathing” is at its best locally at Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, one of the Toledo metroparks, and at other nature preserves within easy driving distance.
Oak Openings is between Whitehouse and Swanton. The 5,000-acre park was named “one of the last great places on earth” by Nature Conservatory.
Hikers have a choice of 50 trails through the park where 180 rare species of plants and animals live.
■ Hidden Lake Gardens is a southern Michigan treasure that is open to the public with several venues that support its mission “to instill an appreciation of plants, gardens, and landscapes.” There is a $3 admission fee.
The land was donated to Michigan State University in 1945 by Harry Fee, an Adrian businessman. Hidden Lake covers 755 acres including walking trails, a lake, picnic area, an arboretum, and has an interesting schedule of programs relating to nature study. It is on M-50, near Tipton, Mich.
■ Goll Woods is testimony to one family’s preservation of the land they loved. Peter and Catherine Goll came to the area from France in 1836 and settled in the midst of trees.
Generations of Golls saved the trees from being cut until the woods were taken over and are now operated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Recreation.
Hikers walk past trees that are 200 and 400 years old and some are 4 feet in diameter. Goll Woods is in western Fulton County, near Archbold, Ohio.
Here’s a tip, if you believe you have walked enough in the woods and bathed in enough natural beauty you may want to treat yourself at the Homestead Ice Cream Shoppe, near Goll Woods on County Road F.
Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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