We all know that spending time in the forest is good for our well being, right? Sure, it’s backed up by science, but that’s no surprise to those of us who have spent any time at all in the woods. It might be the colours, it might be the air, it might any combination of the theories that are out there, but regardless of what the studies say there’s no denying that it’s good for our soul. You can even pay for “forest therapy,” and the Japanese have a whole term for the activity of soaking in the forest (Shinrin-yoku, literally translated “forest bathing.”).
I’ve been lucky to spend most of my life with wild woods dropping off my backyard. Having the calm of nature in our back pocket was one advantage, certainly. Growing up surrounded by forest means I get homesick for them when I’m away for too long. It’s nice to have research confirming the peace of tree-covered mountains. Here are five secondary benefits of living in the forest.
I know that wild food foraging can apparently be done just about anywhere. I have heard ambitious tales of individuals cutting down their grocery bills by foraging in the middle of cities. For the more casual foragers, such as myself, a wooded backyard is a great opportunity to search out mushrooms, wild herbs, wild berries, and fiddleheads. Do you have any favourite or unusual foraging recipes?
2. Wildlife encounters
On one side of our home we have conventional neighbours—the kind that cut their lawn and wave as they drive by. Our neighbours on the other side, however, are more elusive. Still, we have seen everything from bears to bobcat in our backyard. I had the childhood pleasures of discovering newborn songbirds, collecting delicate snail shells, and finding skinks and garter snakes. My personal favourite experiences have been with owls. A northern pygmy owl once sat on our fence post as we went to let the ducks out, allowing us within five feet. Late one chilly evening I listened to the call of a great horned owl while I milked the cow. Summer nights, with the window open, we can hear barn owls shriek and coyotes yipping—both sounds that I love from the comfort of my bed.
3. “Unstructured play” (AKA, fort making)
While this is not an aspect I take enough advantage of these days, I have spent many long summer afternoons building cabins, tepees, and lean-tos. I remember often getting lost in nature, but still being able to hear the call to dinner when it was time to come inside. Now, as a parent, I can’t wait to introduce my child to these joys, and hopefully to participate in them with her.
I don’t personally hunt—at least not yet. But for the family and neighbours who do, they can literally get off work, walk out the back door (until they’re at least a regulation-safe distance from any buildings), and start hunting. It’s not always as easy as that, but it is a nice option to have.
5. Active Living
With the outdoors so readily accessible, getting exercise is almost just a part of life. From those peaceful walks, to heading for a swim in the river or collecting firewood, exercise is easier when you’re not thinking about it (or watching reality t.v. from the treadmill).
I’m at home surrounded by trees. While I enjoy the standing by the ocean or camping in the desert, nothing is quite as comfortable to me as a mountain range and a forest. What is home to you? Why do you love where you live?