Breathe in the woods

It’s been a mild, but grey winter in Ireland. Flowers are optimistically pushing upward out of the damp soil. We could still get a cold blast in February, as often happens, but the plants sense good conditions are are making a dash for it.

It was a beautiful day today, and I took the opportunity to take a ramble in the woods. A cold but sunny day is my favourite kind of weather.

It’s useful to remember to look up and appreciate the few blissful days you get when they happen. It’s easy to let the details of everyday life overwhelm your simple need to get out and breathe in the woods.

There’s plenty of evidence that walking in nature has huge benefits to your wellbeing. You would think since I live in the countryside that I’m always out in nature, but often I’m in transitĀ through nature to other places, with schedules and story ideas dominating my thoughts. I have to remind myself that I need to take breaks, note the moment as it happens, and open up my thought-tunnel to a wider view of the world.

It can seem an indulgence, but it’s good for your health and also for your imagination. The woods for me are always a deep source of connection and inspiration. They are both primordial, majestic, and sometimes, threatening. Their moods change. The woods are never the same any time you walk in them. They are an integrated holistic entity and we respond to their state.

If you think I’m being rather fanciful then you should read the current thinking about how forests are a connected system.

I love the tradition that has sprung up in Japan known asĀ shinrin-yoku: forest bathing. The notion is simple: get out into nature and enjoy the experience. Thankfully many cities have parks, so even if you live in an urban environment, there are places you can go to breathe in nature.

And you can encounter some intriguing characters.