Hidden behind a softball field and parking lot there was a trail. I discovered it accidentally through geocaching. There’s nothing on the main road to hint at its existence; no sign in the parking lot. Taking a few steps in the forest on the graveled trail could transport you away from buildings, cars and human-made noises and smells to the pure sounds and smells of nature. Time is different there. Spend just a few minutes walking through the trees and go back to your car feeling as if you’d been there for hours.
One day I picked up my kindergartner from school and told him we were going for a hike. He complained the whole two minutes to the trail. He refused to get out of the car. I walked to the opening of the forest where the trail began and slipped inside. I was out of his sight, but he was not out of mine. He followed; griping and complaining loud enough for me to hear him. Then he stepped inside. I smiled and looked around. He stopped complaining, looked around and took a deep breath. Something palpable changed in him. We began to stroll. He began to talk about what he saw or heard. We’d stop and crouch to take a look at something on the ground. We’d look for the bird singing overhead. We would touch a leaf and feel its softness. We took our time pointing out things. At the back of the park we sat on a rock peeking up from moss. There was an opening in the tree canopy and we could see the sky. My son played with my hair as I marveled at a tree growing through the rock. We were peaceful. When we felt like our time was up we strolled back to the car. I smiled as my son stepped out of the forest and skipped to the car. There’s my happy boy I thought. We must have been in the forest for about two hours I thought as I started the car and checked the clock. Forty-five minutes had passed.
When studies come out touting the benefits of “forest bathing” or spending time in nature I just smile. I am not surprised. I’m not surprised because I’ve experienced and witnessed the benefits myself. I am not surprised because nature is created by God. Should we really be surprised by the benefits of spending time in God’s creation?