My journey from the farm to forest therapy has been a circuitous route. I began life on a farm in rural Georgia, moved away, and now I am moving back toward the land. I still have the farm, but I no longer live there, life and work having taken me away. In many ways, it has been a natural progression, and in others, it has been phenomenal in the way things have worked together to make it happen. I can only imagine where this journey will take me in the future.
Growing up on a farm in rural Georgia about 40 miles southwest of Augusta, GA, I was able to spend lots of time outside in every season. The countryside in Georgia is always lush with trees, plants, and creatures of all kinds. The outdoors also fed my curiosity, which led to my passions for reading and learning. I even had a favorite reading tree — a pecan tree — with the perfect cradle of branches to enfold me while I read. I spent hours in the arms of that tree. I can only imagine the benefits I received from that tree, and I hope that, perhaps, the tree benefitted from my presence, as well.
I also spent lots of time with my grandmother on her farm. Our days were spent outside no matter the season. We worked in the garden, planting most of the vegetables and fruits we ate, and we spent time walking in the woods on the farm. There was nowhere I would rather be — then or now — than outside. But, school days came along, so I had less time to spend with her, and sadly, she grew older and spent more time indoors. After she passed away and I graduated from high school, I pretty much lost my connection to the forest. Higher education and work left little time for the woodland walks that I had enjoyed so much when I was growing up.
How I got here
While I once contemplated a career in a forestry-related field, I did not pursue my career of choice because I was too short for the height requirement for the particular position I wanted. Instead, I went to secretarial school, and later, I earned a BA and, eventually, an MA in English. And through the years, I have never lost my love for words — nor for the forest. Nature writers are some of my favorite authors: Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Wordsworth, Wendell Berry, and Mary Oliver to name just a few. For me, any book that includes descriptions of nature is a more satisfying book. Throughout my life, I have continually looked for reasonable ways to get into a nature-related field without completely redoing my education.
So, one day while I was surfing the Web, I stumbled upon the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs website. Immediately, I knew that forest therapy was what I had been searching for my entire life. I had known all along in my heart what I wanted to do, but until I found the ANFT, I didn't know how to conceive of it as a practice or even what to call it.
While my group and I were training at Ramblewild in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, I renewed my connection with the forest. The most surprising thing for me, even having spent much time in nature early in my life, was the deeper level of connection to nature I felt. With the help of the invitations. I came in contact with the sublime, which I had only had glimpses of before. And, now I know how to "drop-in" to that connection regularly for an intense experience in nature.
And, most importantly, I have found the road home — the road back to my true self — through the forest. And, to quote Robert Frost, "that has made all the difference." Now, I want to share this amazing experience with others. So, I hope you will join me for a walk soon.