The Forest Teacher: Lessons from a Forest Bath
As I walked early through the deep forest last week, far from people, by myself, misted by the autumn rain, seeking nourishment and also looking for locations to take students to learn about the kingdom of Fungi. With society not far in my past, my mind still reverberating with ideas and thoughts about the things I thought that I needed to be doing there, such as trip scouting, and considering ease of walking for students, and presence of edibles and medicinals
All of a sudden everything changed very quickly.
I was startled by some very loud crashed, clearly from a significantly more agile creature than me not far off in the distance.
As my heart thumped loudly, and blood sped through my vessels at a rapidly increased rate, my breathing almost stopped, and all of my senses, including those that are part of the nervous system-skin axis, that seems like it can almost feel my environment became highly conscious, there was a sudden dawning awareness that I wasn’t the top predator here. That’s an interesting awareness while you’re alone, deep in the forest.
A few seconds later, I also realized, that most likely, the crashing was a large herbivore, as the two large carnivore/omnivores who might pose a risk, weren’t nearly as likely to crash-Mountain Lions are more stealthy, and you rarely are made aware of their presence unless they want you too, and bears are more calm, generally more bold initially and/or curious so don’t typically bound quite as readily or as loudly unless surprised.
As my adrenaline heightened vision scanned through the sparkling moss dripping from the recurved Vine Maples, peering through the forest mist, I looked for the big white rump of an Elk, (Wapiti, in the Shawnee language, means white rump) which is often what you’ll see first when you’re fortunate enough to see one of these beautiful creatures in person. I wasn’t that fortunate this morning but in just a moment afterwards there was these, a medium sized elk skull, and a collection of large Turbinellus, also called scaly chanterelles.
There are a lot of lessons here, as in all things, about presence awareness, about being mindful, and about life and death, about ecological balance, and returning to the earth. And about so much more. The forest is a school, and lessons come faster than my mind can process.
And getting back to food chains, the top always makes it to the bottom, eventually.
Wishing you time in the forest and an openness to the forest’s wisdom,