Aren’t Redwoods just magnificent?
I was thrilled to be driving to a new location for our Shinrin-Yoku walk last Saturday, March 14th.
North Sonoma Mountain Park has only been open for a couple of months, and I don’t mean for the season, but for first time ever. Because of that, it retains a sense of wild that is stronger than in other parks, which have seen human presence for years.
This was the sixth walk of our seven walks immersion series and, finally and for the first time, I managed to get to the location at 8:30am, one hour early on the scheduled time, in order to grab some pics in the good light. The start of DST a week earlier also allowed for an extra hour of light, even if that is an illusion, as we technically wake up an hour earlier in order to be someplace at the same time. That acknowledged, I will accept the illusion for as long as it lasts. Days are getting longer fast, and soon that extra hour will be obsolete.
It was still overcast with high fog as I walked around taking a pics, but within half an hour, the fog cleared and the sun came out. Of course, I had to walk around again and retake the pics with glowing sun light and blue sky. What a difference half an hour can make!
What you see in these first few images is the view around the parking area. Pretty stunning isn’t it?
I had been looking forward to this all week, and I was really happy to be there, and getting happier as the sun warmed me and I could change into a lighter jacket.
Nature had definitely taken big steps toward spring: grasses were lush and tall, with lots of little wildflowers, trees had tender new leaves on, and everything was generally glowing with the vibrance of rebirth.
This is such a beautiful place, and I resolved to explore here regularly. I have heard and read that the trails from NSMP reach Jack London Park, and plans are to continue extending them, adding to an ambitious project of creating 550 miles of trails circling San Francisco Bay.
By 9:30 am everyone had arrived and Amos guided us down the trail and into a forest canopy rich in oaks and fragrant bay trees as well as clusters of my beloved redwoods. I was happy to see a couple of reentries plumping up our core group. Like on day one, there were eleven of us, with number twelve being the forest.
We circled up by the creek for our check-in. We did not use rocks this time because the creek bed, where rocks were to be found, was more challenging to reach. Amos guided us in a wonderful and grounding session inspired by the tall and strong redwoods nearby. With eyes closed, his voice encouraged us to feel our energy go down into the earth through our feet, then send out roots that would spark more roots, then more and more until a root system formed and we were grounded like the trees. He had us focus on our tree trunk next and feel its strength, then lift our arms up, reaching towards the sky like branches swaying in the breeze.
I could feel the power of the trees, how firm and grounded they feel, with every other tree and critter in the forest being family. I only felt one vulnerability: humans, and how the trees feel just a little nervous at first when unknown humans come along, never knowing what their attitude and behavior is going to be. This is what I shared with the group when it was my turn to speak, and wondered if the trees were happy with us being there. Others pitched in along the same lines, and one of them answered my question: “Yes, we are. Just be gentle with us.”
For a long time now I have been feeling how each tree, each rock, each critter is truly our brother or sister, just like tribal cultures have been teaching us – how truly everything is imbued with spirit and has consciousness. This knowledge, this feeling has become even more grounded in me over the past few weeks of forest bathing, and I was really feeling it very strongly in that moment, though I did not express it in words.
Our first invitation was to couple-up and meander, finding one or more tree with which to connect and ask of it a question. Being an invitation, we were also free to do that by ourselves if we so chose. I had had such a fun experience last time we had doubled up at the botanical garden, that I was open to a partnered exploration.
And here something happened that I did not expect. I found myself dealing with a ghost from the past – a situation I had not encountered in a long time, so I was unprepared for it. I am a giver and nurturer by nature, and, unfortunately, I tend to attract bottomless wells of neediness. Over the years, I have learned the hard way that I need to maintain healthy boundaries in order to avoid being depleted. It was one of my lessons for this life, and I know I have graduated. In a place like this, with five magical Shinrin-Yoku session under my belt, I felt safe and was open. I was caught by surprise and it spoiled the rest of my time in the forest.
I debated long and hard within myself whether to mention at least part of this in this post, to the point that I almost did not write a post at all. But a group of seven with a big gaping hole where number six was supposed to be just did not sit right with me. I decided to write the post and trust that the right way of doing it would come to me.
I am actually glad I mentioned this because it was important to me and, had I pretended nothing had happened and oopsy-daisied over the whole thing, this would have been a shallow bit of writing indeed. I can feel myself relax as I type now that I have tackled it, despite the fact that I am still tiptoeing through my sentences and choosing to limit what I share in order not to detract from the beauty of the place and everyone else’s experience.
While editing the photos over the past couple of days and prepping them for the post, I was able to reconnect with the Spirit of Place and receive at least some of the soothing that had been denied to me on the day because I became so irritated I inevitably shut down.
I did not share any of this with the group at the time because I did not want to spoil their magic experiences with the wretchedness of mine, and spread irritation instead of the usual joy I have been feeling. I chose to share the good parts, skip over the bad, and in the end I just chose not to speak.
I was aggravated throughout the whole drive home, and even though I did my best to let it go and play music, it would not go away. I knew it for what it was, I just was not sure why it had shown up at this time and in such a place and situation, but since it had, I knew I needed to look at it from all angles. Which I did over the following couple of days, knowing that, as I let it go and gained distance, things would show themselves in the proper light. My main concern was if and how this might reflect me in any way. If there was any part of me that had those tendencies in any degree, I would want to make sure they were eradicated. I may not share the whole story with others, but I am brutally honest with myself, which is what has enabled me to dig deep and heal so many layers in the past twenty years.
After careful inner scrutiny, the only explanation I have been able to come up with is that it was a reminder: “Hey! You are good at seeing through people on the spot. Remember to trust that, keep your healthy boundaries up as needed and say no when something does not feel good.”
I may have co-created this situation through a slip of my hard-earned boundaries, but I am still not responsible for other people’s behavior, choices and issues, just for my own offered Vibration and my ability to say no and be at peace with that. Everyone is dealing with something and they are doing the best they can from where they are, but there are times when patience is not kindness.
The second invitation was an extended solitary meander and some sit-spot time, which is exactly what I had been hoping for. I like both, but I really enjoy the sit-spot. As we spread out, I went on one of my camera explorations and then did my sit-spot by the creek. It soothed me a little, but not as much as it usually did. For the first time since my first Shinrin-Yoku, I was ready to go home, while I usually feel I could stay forever.
I had finally remembered to bring my drum, who was eager to sing his song, so I helped call the others back to base camp, where we circled and shared our experiences while Amos made tea. At least, the others shared while I kept quiet and just listened, giving them as much focus and attention as I could given my lack of inner quiet.
As I listened to the others, some shared feelings and thoughts which echoed with mine. Susan remarked how naming trees, flowers and animals with the human-assigned scientific names tends to create a disconnect between us and them. The other thing that came up along these lines was the referencing of a tree, flower, animal, or even rock, as a she or he instead of an it. Doing so, helps us personalizes them more, bridging the perceived gap.
Then someone else mentioned how she would always feel disconnected and alone when surrounded by a lot of family members, yet feeling so connected and peaceful while technically alone in the forest among trees, rocks and critters. This reflected how I was feeling in that moment.
I noticed how I was in such a beautiful place and yet the energy drain I experienced had disconnect me from it and, by consequence, from the group; the expectation of enjoyment ruined. I knew I would have to return and exorcise the energy of this day with a positive experience. This reminded me of another time, place and situation that I still need to go and exorcise. The dynamics were the same, only made much worse by the type of connection and the length of time it took me to acknowledge it and honor myself by saying “Enough!”
Tea was lovely. Amos had managed to gather quite the bounty of herbs: nettle, dandelion, cleaver (?), chickweed and miner’s lettuce. Its warmth was welcome, and with one last round of sharing, the session came to a close. We collected our belongings and, chatting in little clusters, hiked back up to the parking lot. I was sorry to hear that Lane would be unable to join us for the last walk this coming Saturday. She will be with us in spirit, though, and join us for other forest bathing times in the future, and maybe other gatherings I think would be fun to organize with this group.
To my core Shinrin-Yoku group, you know who you are: I hope that reading my honest sharing has not spoiled the magical time I know you have had at Sonoma Mountain Park. I wish I had been more alert so things could have remained on the same high key they had been all these weeks, but… well, it was what it was. I chose to write about it because that was my experience, and avoiding would have been an untruth.
I look forward very much to seeing you again on Saturday, and know that my upset has dissipated and I will be bringing with me only my re-established delight in our shared time in the forest.
The seventh and final walk of this Shinrin-Yoku immersion series will be tomorrow, Saturday, March 21st at Sugar Loaf Ridge Park, merely hours after today’s powerful combination of eclipse and Vernal equinox.
Until the next Shinrin-Yoku.
If you wish to learn more about the practice of Shinrin-Yoku, how to join a walk or become a guide, you can check out this website.
For another perspective on this Shinrin-Yoku walk, Carole has written another beautiful blog post and you can read it here.
Read about the other walks in this series by clicking on the links below:
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