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Posted on May 25, 2018 @ 09:13:00 AM by Paul Meagher
I drove down to the farm property on thursday to sell some square bales of hay from the barn. After my online and farm work was done for the day I went to visit
a local swimming hole and was pleasantly surprised to see that someone did some trail development since I visited last fall. I explored the trail
for awhile and, given my recent interest in Forest Bathing, I felt like this was a trail where a person could do some serious forest bathing. I took some
footage of a deep woody to riverine section of the walk. The ideal forests in this area are called Acadian Forests and are characterized by a diverse mix of hardwoods
and softwood species, often with brilliant colors in the fall. It is springtime during this walk so the leaves are still in the process of emerging. At one point in
the footage, I look at a rock type that is interesting and reminds me of coral rock.
On my drive down I decided to listen to Bill Mollison's 1983 Permaculture Design Course.
When I hit the play button, the part that started playing happened to be about the many ways in which water and trees are interconnected. He refers, for example, to a forest as a "standing lake" and trees as "columns
of water". He discusses how much surface area an acre of Eucalyptus Trees might expose to the atmosphere and comes up with an estimate of 1200 acres (there are studies on this). An intact forest is a huge condensing surface for water helping to regulate the humidity of the forest and the surrounds. He also discusses forest-based rain which occurs when humid air released by a forest supplies water to the atmosphere that causes rain downwind from that area of the forest. That area of the forest in turn adds humidity and the cycle is repeated. Remove large sections of forest and that type of rain does not happen.
I have some skepticism about these claims as do many scientists, but I do acknowledge that Bill is putting forward his own mechanical theories on the origin of precipitation which are quite testable. There is some evidence to support his claims. Bill views trees as a "living system" that has a more profound effect on the availability of water in the landscape than most scientists would claim.
Bill's discussion of trees and water offers another reason why the term forest bathing is so apt. If a forest is a standing lake why wouldn't we call it bathing when we walking in or near a dense forest canopy?
I don't think forest bathing is something I will do everyday. Sometimes I will just go for a walk around the block for my physical exercise. When I am at the farm I will do more forest bathing because there is lots of forest land around here and lots of it I haven't yet explored. When I am in my favorite spots in a forest, next to a steam, I am generally not thinking that I want to forest bath here. I have interests in hydrology, forestry, and permaculture that caused me to be there and are contributing to my enjoyment of the forest. The fact that I am forest bathing is often of secondary concern but sometimes, in particularly beautiful sections of forest, I may feel compelled to make forest bathing a priority so I don't miss the feeling of beauty that the forest is radiating.
The term forest bathing might also be used to help remind us that trees and water are interconnected in many ways. The forest is not just a carbon sink, it is also a water sink and source.
Happy memorial day weekend and I hope you have the opportunity to do some forest bathing and figure out what it means to you.