We were excited as we finally hit the "PUBLISH" button and reloaded the online portion of NNFT. And now we have published dates for upcoming forest bathing walks in Niagara. We are also beginning to link various social media tools, so that we are stepping up that part of the web game too. Seems fun, but also a bit overwhelming, so we are taking the “slow but sure” approach.
We (Melissa and Jonathan) are also excited to jointly enter the blogosphere. We hope to allow our scientific/left brain sides and our not-always-so-serious/right brain sides to collide and even carouse in these posts. The choice to call it “Knotty in Nature” was a tough one, and it's still just a provisional title. Although we have a lot of serious reflections/topics prepared, we do want to be more playful with this blog. Just to mix some fun in.
But we also want to unpack some of the meaning behind the words - restore.belong. - and to reflect also on the core principles of the practice as self-other-nature. These things are not self-evident, and for people who have become familiar with and practiced in mindfulness, these emphases will likely seem odd or unclear. Nature/forest therapy is quite different from mindfulness in some respects, and we will reflect on that too.
Of course when choosing the title for the blog, some might think that “Knotty by Nature” would have been a better choice, however, I discovered it's already been taken by a handful of knitting businesses (and if they happen to be looking for alternatives, I would offer them other puns such as “the Knit-Wit Store” or “Sew Knot Gonna..” or even “Stitch and Switch” i.e., switch colours, hands, needles, etc. The list is potentially endless. I digress. And I wish I hadn't started. But now that I've reflected on it further, I really think the knitting folks should have left “Knotty by Nature” for a tree-related business.) This is egregiously off topic, but perhaps readers would like to comment below, offering other knitting store suggestions?).
There are plenty of serious issues to engage, from new research that keeps improving our understanding of why spending time in nature is so beneficial, to more tantalizing (yet less serious) insights from celebrities such as Kate Middleton and her new-found forest bathing fascination. One issue that we should address here, in order to dispel the assumptions, is the fully-clothed nature of forest bathing. Shinrin yoku, as it is called in Japan, involves no bodily submersion in water, and no removal of clothing in a general sense (although taking off your shoes at times, shedding a layer if the sun proves you bundled up too warm, etc.). Forest therapy is forest bathing is nature therapy is shinrin-yoku, in a general sense. Clothing is standard. The whole time.
Now to ponder the phrase, “naughty by nature”: the idea of being naughty isn't really one we're trying to support in principle, if by naughty you mean reckless destruction. But if you mean breaking the rules of society by re-wilding yourself, going back to your more primitive selves, which society would probably view as rebellious or socially divergent, i.e. being naughty, then yes, let's be naughty in nature. Fully clothed (besides everyone agrees outdoor clothing and Tilley hats are just so the fashion. Am I right?).
We are struck these days by how many movies continue to portray the wild as hostile to humans. The reality is, yes, there are dangers out there. We take them seriously. But are there not less dangers in the wild than in the tame (civilization)? Isn't human society generally much naughtier than the wilderness? More savage?
Trees, having knots, have a knotty nature, and it's what enables their strength and growth by creating branches and reinforcing their core's connection to the different directions in which they are pulled. So if we want to join them in being naughty (read: wild), or knotty (all tightly wound), let's get to a place in nature to let our mental knots disentangle or unfurl, or to branch out a little. We do seek to promote being knotty in nature, if only to let nature heal and manage our knottiness. You feel knotty? Then get into nature. Hang with other knotty creatures. They will teach you a thing or two about how to remain calm while being pulled in all directions.
Come to think of it, the idea that humans are either naughty by nature, or knotty by nature (born bad and inevitably sickened and stressed - two sides of the same messed-up coin?), isn't something we want to promote; many people have ideas about whether humans are inclined to good or evil and may assume that we are knotty/naughty in our essence, to the core. We're naught. knot. NOT. Why not just experiment with our inclinations to be natural. By nature and in nature, we can become our better selves. This can be named a spiritual quest, or a personality discovery or simply a journey of health. Our blog posts will probably shift gears regularly between these various shades of nature therapy.
In nature we can recover parts of who we always knew ourselves to be, but have forgotten. We can belong in our recovered identity, and in connection with others who are on the path of rediscovering a deeper sense of belonging in this world (rather than escape). And in this process or path we become both recipients and agents of restoration. Our selves, our relationships (with humans and the more-than-human natural world), and a more intimate role in the task of restoring the natural world. We belong, we are restoring as we become restored.
This winter has been somewhat hostile to those of us who regularly want to find ourselves outdoors. It feels like finally the season and energy of life is changing! As we gaze out and enjoy the bright sun that is illuminating the maple tree in our back yard, giving hope that the warmth of spring will soon draw us outdoors more, we are grateful to be in this world - to belong here, and to have a role in becoming restored with nature.
What to expect from future blog posts? We intend to include a broad range of topics and styles of writing, but all with the expectation that it will be of interest to forest bathers. Along the way we will process and share some of the reading we are doing on related topics. Some of the blog posts will come in the form of a book review, not in an academic or New York Review of Books style, but one in which we hope to summarize, reflect and speak from the heart about the pages that are now shaping our practice. If there are others who want to review a book and post it here, we are definitely game for giving a forum for the insights and reflections of others.