Sinrinyoku is a Japanese phrase that was created only a few decades ago and means “forest bathing”. While I have known of this concept and understood it, the meaning sank deeply into me throughout my field school experience.
Being in the woods or amidst trees is said to be very beneficial to our health and can help us reduce stress. This practice can help individuals find peace, hope, and new meaning (Miyazaki).
Being physically close to nature for five days – being near large trees and being able to touch them throughout the day – helped me contemplate and experience a deeper connection with everything non-human around me.
Interacting with Nature: Close, Near, Far
The field school class room started in our direct neigbhouhood in Vancouver in the park, then a little further to North Vancouver for hiking. Finally, we went to outside of Greater Vancouver for three day camping trip.
CLOSE: Trout Lake Park, Vancouver, BC
We had workshops throughout the day. Zach encouraged us to think of design that could benefit the natural environment. In a city park like this, it is hard for the natural habitat to avoid human presence and interference. What can humans do to help while they visit the park for the local natural habitat? I noticed that the majority of people at the park had a dog companion with them. I thought “dog hair” ! I’ve heard of how birds make nest with animal hair. If we build a dog brushing station where the humans can sit and chat while they brush their dog companions, wouldn’t that be great for all parties involved (humans, birds, and doggies)?
Just by staying in the local park for a day, there is so much that you can discover. I did not know there were so many different birds here in the city. If I was just walking through the park with my earpods on as I normally do when I’m alone, my experience at the park would have been completely different. I even sat on the grass (well, kind of) among geese and dog droppings – this was a challenge if you know how much of a germaphobe I am!
When Zack told us about a new plan that was recently approved for this park, I was disappointed to hear about all the new supposedly exciting beautification of the park – much of it was human-centric designed with more benches, more bike and walking paths, etc. I thought about how I can have a stronger voice for the local habitat when it comes to park plans for city parks like this one.