Give gift of forest bathing

#Middlebury #MiddleburyLandTrust #ForestBathing

Snow highlights the brilliant colors of the male Cardinal. (Curtiss Clark photo)


As we move into December, our thoughts often turn from the feelings of gratitude that characterize Thanksgiving to thoughts about what we don’t have but want. It’s quite a switch. Advertisers use the media to besiege us with frantic messages to buy, buy, buy! Your loved ones’ lives will not be complete without all of this merchandise!

But as the old saying goes, many of the best things in life are free. I urge you to take some time out from this consumer immersion and try some outdoors immersion. In Japan, they even have an expression for this, “forest bathing.” By now it’s much too cold here in Connecticut to even consider actual immersion in any of our ponds, lakes or oceans (at least that’s my opinion) but immersion in the fields, woods and alongside our waterways can do wonders for your body and your soul.

The natural world is waiting to gift you with treasures small and large: tiny, bright berries lingering on bushes; stalwart birds who remain, circling and now usually quiet; blue jays and cardinals providing brilliant color against the first snows; the occasional colorful leaf that hangs on well past its comrades; a fish swimming slowly while absorbing the weak winter sun; and scampering squirrels, so commonplace we forget they are quite adorable and amazingly acrobatic.

Another change that can be a gift is, paradoxically, the fallen leaves. The beautiful colors of summer and autumn are gone, but now new vistas open. Views blocked by the lush foliage and trees are revealed. I find my eyes searching farther into the woods and along the leaf-blanketed forest floor for animals and also just to see how the lay of the land goes.

The female Cardinal offers quiet beauty. (Curtiss Clark photo)

This holiday, consider giving the gift of time with a loved one or friend and take a walk (or as we have learned, a run) and enjoy the sharp, cold air, the feeling of icy wind on your cheeks. Scents that are so prevalent in spring, summer and fall are muted in winter but then we can appreciate that you actually can smell snow. As the temperatures drop, we can just dig out the fleece and down, the scarves and mittens and “never mind the weather, as long as we’re together.” In all likelihood, memories made with loved ones and friends will be more enduring than another … whatever.

If you really need to give something more monetarily based, there are more traditional gifts such as membership in an organization that protects or promotes that wonderful natural world. Memberships in organizations such as the Middlebury Land Trust or the Audubon Society or the Nature Conservancy come to mind. But there is a value to the “shop local” movement so I lean towards the first. However you decide to celebrate this season, there are joys all around; it just requires taking the time to enjoy and share them. Find the Middlebury Land Trust online at


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