I was entranced to discover there is a word for the feeling of well being I share with millions of you – Shinrin-yoku, a Japanese term that means “forest bathing”. The idea being that spending time in the forest and natural areas is good preventative medicine, lowering stress. Allelochemic substances ‘phytonicides’help slow the growth of fungi and bacteria. When humans are exposed to them, these chemicals are scientifically proven to lower blood pressure, relieve stress and boost the growth of white blood cells. garlic, onion, pine, tea tree and oak are all examples of plants emitting phytonicides.
When we walk in Scotland, we spend most of our time simply being in the landscape, enjoying the feeling of well-being that we both find there. I take lots of photographs there and these inform much of what I do when I am creating both illustration and the handmade books. I go back to those photographs time and again, both to recreate the feeling of creativity, and to inspire new designs. Just browsing through my back catalogue provokes a feeling of joy, remembered tranquillity and when I am in a slump of not knowing how to move forward, I take a step back and invariably come across something to make the spark reignite.
Today I rediscovered these woods, and immediately I am reminded of the wonderful treatise by Herman Hesse on the sanctuary of trees. I breathed a sigh of recognition when I first read his words – they are beautiful – I can only urge you to find a copy.
Admit something: Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect. Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye that is always saying, with that sweet moon language, What every other eye in this world is dying to hear?
The conscious mind hungers for success and prestige. The unconscious mind hungers for those moments of transcendence, when the skull line disappears and we are lost in a challenge or a task — when a craftsman feels lost in his craft, when a naturalist feels at one with nature, when a believer feels at one with God’s love. That is what the unconscious mind hungers for. And many of us feel it in love when lovers feel fused. – David Brooks
This passage from David Brook’s excellent book came to mind this morning, as I lose myself in the playfulness of adjusting photographs mainly captured by my husband , and turning them into images with digital tools. I hope to enhance the power of the image by using a variety of techniques, but most probably the best image is the one that is left alone. It really doesn’t matter, because what I am getting from the process is something Brooks terms as limerence. And I have sought it all my life. I am full of gladness that I have the privilege of time to use pursuing it. I was a young teen probably when I first became conscious of those moments of transcendence – it may have been earlier but my memory of my young childhood is barely apparent. What I do remember is making my way through a local park, violin in hand on the way to my lesson when I suddenly became aware of the smallest area of grass at my feet, and the overwhelming feeling of delightedness and joy. It felt as though I had been in touch with magic, and for some time , years , I assumed it to be quasi religious. That moment made me connect to a universe in a way that I wanted to do again and again. What I didn’t know then was that those moments can’t be sought, they are of their own time, outside of any control by me. There have been others, but few and too far between – but the upshot of me feeling that moment was that it informed me about my choices, and it informs me still.
And that is why I love the opportunity to practice my craft – I only wish I could create the same peacefulness and abandon in the kitchen, but sadly not.
If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal — that is your success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. The greatest gains and values are farthest from being appreciated. We easily come to doubt if they exist. We soon forget them. They are the highest reality. Perhaps the facts most astounding and most real are never communicated by man to man. The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.
Henry David Thoreau in Walden
Sad today, a huge , huge branch has fallen, suggesting that the beautiful ancient tree opposite our window may not be in the best of health. I have spent many times underneath that tree, sharing my thoughts, my concerns, my cries. Always I have felt the majesty of its peace help me to repair.
I fear this may be the beginning of an end. Farewell to a beautiful friend.