It began a few weeks ago, a lethargy that slowly crept into my limbs making me feel heavy, drugged and listless. At first I didn’t know why I was feeling so unmotivated and foggy. All I wanted to do was sleep, read and dream about gardening. When I found myself scrolling through pictures of gardens and countrysides on Pinterest and three hours and gone by I realized what was affecting me. I had garden withdrawal. Or so I thought.
If you follow my posts you know that last winter I had a burning need to garden on a large scale and to be out in the countryside again. Suburbia wasn’t cutting it for me. I sent my wish out into the ether and the universe conspired to connect me with Jenn Stack of Stack Family Farm.
So in early March right up until late November I had the extreme blessing of being out in nature working with the earth and plants for two or three days a week. Full days spent in the company of trees, bugs, farm animals and green growing things. This work feeds my need to get my hands in the soil, to express my creativity and to be out in the quiet of the countryside but now I realize it was so much more.
In November, when I left the farm for the last time I was so very sad. The garden was mulched with layers of hay and looked like it was put to bed under a golden quilt, sleeping until the spring. And I suppose I should be resting and going inward too as the days get short and the darkness closes in but instead I am longing for my time in the countryside.
I put some of this longing down to missing the fresh air and physical exercise that comes with gardening, but as I thought about what it was like arriving at the farm I knew it was something a little bit more. No matter how uptight or anxious I was feeling, the second I opened the gate to the farm I felt a calmness descend. And this was before I even put on my gardening gloves. The same thing would happen when I lived on my hobby farm in the Kootenays. As soon as I stepped outside, no matter what the season, a relaxing feeling of coming home was there, the tension would dissolve from my shoulders, the knot in my stomach would unravel.
Did I mention both my former hobby farm and Stack Family Farm are surrounded by forest and mountains? So it was the location that caused me to feel so much better than when I’m stuck in town. I needed to know why and I found out the Japanese know exactly what kind of magic was happening.
They call it shinrin-yoku or forest bathing and Japanese physicians’ prescribe it to their patients because the air in the forest is different from anywhere else. The trees release phytoncides into the air and these volatile wood oils found in cedar, cypress, beech oak and pine trees when breathed in help elevate our moods, calm the nervous system and strengthens the immune system.
So for now I must accept that I will feel a bit moody and melancholic until spring comes again and I can spend hours and days immersed in the forest where I garden. And in the meantime, along with taking extra vitamin D (I live in Canada after all), I will venture up the road to Westminster Abbey and take one of the public walking paths so I can have a long soak in the forest.