Requiring no soap,

forest bathing, or shinrin roku, was officially invented by the Japanese in the 1980s to help people  dealing with burnout in the big city. Doctors still prescribe it. I don’t think it involves lying prone as in a bathtub though I suppose it could.

Trees release antibacterial and antifungal phytoncides into the air, possibly boosting the immune system.

I also am not aware of whether it is necessary to do your forest bathing in an old growth forest, say Washington’s Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, or Rockport, with its hundred year old trees, or Alaska’s Tongass, the largest national forest in the U.S., impressive as they are, or whether spending some time in Hillside Woods in my hometown would do the trick. I think the latter.

Old growth was newly coined by ecologists in the 1970s, and it meant woodlands that had been undisturbed for more than a century. Around where I live, on the East Coast, we don’t have many of those, though the NYBG boasts about its teeny patch of virgin land, Thain Forest, at 50 acres. They say beaver live there. In the Bronx. Here, forests have been cut down to one percent of their original volume since European colonization.

It’s a far cry from Poland and Belarus’s 548 square mile Bialowieza where the world’s largest population of European bison lives.

I would much rather be bathing in one of these forests right now rather than writing this post, so I think I will climb into the bathtub and dream of lofty ancient trees hung with moss.

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