Saturday, June 18, 2016

Forest Bathing With Dad Before Forest Bathing Was Cool (SHINRIN-YOKU)

Happy Father's Day, Dad! (He'll never see this.)

There's this new trend sort of coming from Japan called "Forest Bathing." I forget how they say it in Japanese (I found it and added it to the bottom), but the Japanese people do revere the natural world. It's not literal bathing with water, rather, it's the whole idea of immersing yourself in the forest or any other type of nature to relax and rejuvenate. Yeah? Well, our family has been doing this before we knew it was "a thing."

The fact that I've always felt comfortable in the out of doors is a blessing I received from my father. His gift to me when I turned five was a tent. He bought me snowshoes when I was a little girl, the old fashioned beaver tail kind. He took me hunting with him, teaching me how to stay downwind and move stealthily through the snow. He signed me up for Hunter's Safety the minute I was old enough. He bought me hiking boots. He taught me how to bait a hook and yell "FISH ON!!!" when the bobber disappeared beneath the surface. He taught me how to shoot a rifle off the back porch. He taught me how to let a horse know "who's boss." He tanned deer hides for us to use for dress-up. If one of his taxidermy trophies arrived in a big shipping crate, he would haul that wooden crate a little ways into the woods for us to use as a fort. He took a trip to Alaska once and brought back some pretty rocks he found and then tied up in a red bandanna as a present.

Once, when he worked at Sky Top Ranch in Montana, I went to visit him, but the gate was locked and I didn't have the code. I believe the driveway was a mile long gravel road, but Dad had told me about a trail he built himself from the gate up through the woods to the ranch house. I noticed the trailhead and decided to try that rather than walking up the gravel road thinking it would be shorter, although more steep--a new view. While I was hiking, he had returned to the ranch and saw my parked car. He drove through the gate thinking he would come up on me walking up the road. When he arrived at the house, he assumed I had beat him there and was waiting, but the dogs weren't indicating anything. As I emerged from the woods and made my way across the open area while approaching the house, the dogs noticed me and started barking and coming to investigate. Soon, especially after I called them by name (Heidi and Cody), they started wagging and escorting me to the house. Dad was a little surprised that I had a chosen to hike up on his homemade trail rather than wait for him, and was further surprised that I had the confidence to try a trail by myself that I had never hiked before, in the wilds of Montana. I was surprised that he was surprised because after all, THIS was the man who helped me to feel so comfortable in the woods. Dad was the All-American mentor for Forest Bathing!

And obviously, this whole idea of playing outside has been a blessing throughout my life. Ken wasn't sure I was serious when I talked about how much I loved hiking and camping until he passed me on the Silver Lake trail on one of his days off from the cave. I was with my roommate, Sue and had no clue that he and some other rangers were out hiking. This whole outdoorsy thing has kept me more active than I would have been normally. Growing up outside gave me the confidence to get hired as a National Park Ranger (and move rattlesnakes). I'm still a chicken much of the time, a very cautious chicken, but I have more confidence than I would had I not been raised by this man. It has given me myriad amazing experiences and teaching opportunities. It convinced my husband that if he married me, there was a good chance I really would continue to camp and hike. And this whole forest bathing thing has turned my heart to God, thanking Him and the Savior thousands of times for such wonderful handiwork. I'm sure my dad had no idea what the future held when he bought me tents, snowshoes, fishing poles, horses, guns, and hiking boots, but I am SO GLAD he did!

Thanks, Dad! Love you (Archie Bunker tendencies and all)!

This is the healing way of Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy, the medicine of simply being in the forest. Shinrin-yoku is a term that means "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing." It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.


  1. Delightful to read about your Dad! And what wonderful gifts he gave you. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Love this post! Great memories and so well written. I am so glad you keep this blog.