The Gifts of Forest Therapy: Post Winter Solstice Reflections

5AM seems to be my rising time lately.  As my brain and heart are so full, I feel the urgency to rise and start my day before I can fully open my eyes.

Yesterday was the winter solstice and I watched the sunrise on top of Bussey Hill in the Arnold Arboretum with a new/old soul whom I met in November. It was one of those feelings you get when you meet someone and you are pretty sure you have known them for lifetimes and there is almost an instant ease.  We connected over white pine tea and Tarot and discovered that we both tend the same land and foster relationships to the local trees and natural areas.  We realized that we have practically been walking in circles around each other in our favorite meandering spots in the Arboretum talking to Eastern Hemlock, Norway Spruce, and the wide variety of conifers that live right here in our community.  She invited me to join her in welcoming back the light by watching the sunrise and introducing me to meet a Birch Tree that she has been hangin with.  I was delighted.  She invited another friend too that I know from around town and the three of us met on top of the hill.   The sky was clear as the golden sun came up and out came all the little last minute ritual items from everyone’s pockets.  We did some formal letting go and bringing in in our own way.  We wrote things, burned things, infused things, drank things, said things and did our nature connection thing in our own ways that we do and talked about our various inspirations and practices.  It was very cold but we were filled with light until our extremities were too numb to linger and we ceremoniously descended the hill and went our own ways.

Later that day I went to a birthday/solstice party for someone who was turning 91 whom I met on my first Forest Bathing Practicum Walk this past September. She tromped around with me and nine others on a full three hour long walk on a cool misty morning. She brought and offered so much life and wisdom and soaked up the experience like a sponge.  We’ve kept in touch ever since and now we share a small meditation circle.

At her birthday/solstice party, I met some other friends of hers.  One of whom I learned went to the same elementary school as her in Holland in the 30’s.  She shared with me that she had survived the Holocaust and had been through the camps and lost her family.  This was the first time that I have met a Holocaust Survivor.  I thanked her for sharing this information with me.  She was very open about her story, saying that she makes a big effort to educate kids in school about what she went through.  I acknowledged the importance of that.  Meeting this woman yesterday on the winter solstice was timely and profound in many personal ways.  And I know this was just the beginning of another new relationship.

Last year at this time I was putting out some heavy intentions.  There had been a build-up of pressure inside myself that brought an urgency to pursue some things that scared me.  I then learned that astrologically I was right on time in making a big change in my life and that I am in the midst of my “midlife transits.”  So I have been harnessing this momentum towards deeper connection and leaning into the natural world while finding ways to hold space for others to do this too.

This practice has sustained me through my own share of challenges and painful experiences this past year.  But I don’t wish 2017 away.  No.  I have learned so much and gained new perspectives.  I was able to cope with the pleasures and agonies that come with the human experience without adding too much extra drama or story lines to events that are traumatic in nature and need no embellishments.

This willingness to face life on life’s terms with tenderness has enabled me to form deeper relationships with humans of all kind and with the more-than-human world.  In essence, I feel like I have metaphorically crawled out from under a rock this year and as I step out of the shadows I will always love and appreciate the rock.   As I welcome back the light, I am filled with gratitude for the companions of yesterday’s solstice.