It has been the first camping holiday of the year. I do indeed take a notebook everywhere with me but wish I could honestly claim to be better at taking inspiration from my surrounding environment on such trips. I have noticed I am more likely to get some impromptu scribbling done when I am undertaking the routine, on my train commute to work, for instance, than in a place one would expect to provide spiritual inspiration.
A few scrawled notes on my pad say: ‘path as common metaphor, female identity, fairy tales’; ‘earthy, damp mushroom smell: farinaceous? Look up dictyophora‘; ‘Taste fresh, breathe sparkle’; ‘Green: fern, moss, pine, sage, juniper, spring, sap; the chromium; the camouflage; the cool…’
None of which gets me terribly far, in any practical, textual sense.
But the green, the relaxing, healing, saturated green. Much is being written lately, and said, about ‘forest bathing’, i.e. promoting a sense of wellbeing and relaxation by walking in, burying oneself in, absorbing, the forest. A term taken from the Japanese, shinrin yoku. It is a theory developed, I understand, in the 1980s, presumably a time where we noticed how distanced most of us had become from nature. An opportunity to calm the mind, be present, observe details. Time slows, along with the pulse rate. I am lucky to live steps away from wide green spaces, yet only access this at weekends because the weekdays are so full. That’s pretty silly, I know.
This weekend, we deliberately had few aims, except to leave the car parked up and go nowhere we couldn’t walk to. Not try to cram too much in.
Colours are concepts and experiences, not realities. In some languages green is a shade of blue, without a separate word (Korean, Thai, Vietnamese…); other tongues have multiple words for shades of green (is it true that IsiZulu has 39 words for ‘green’?), and yet others blur the boundaries (such as Gaelic languages) across green, blue, and grey. No matter, the sense of tranquillity and freshness it imparts are a universal balm.