Withdrawal Symptoms

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.

forest bathingThey 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.



Where Is Your Home?

Source: purpleshadow13.hubpages.com

Source: purpleshadow13.hubpages.com

Everyone has ideal work and home environments, places where they can be their most productive and authentic. I wonder where these preferences come from. Is it an attempt to recreate a childhood home where one felt safe and loved, is it just a matter of convenience and lifestyle or is it a link to the way our ancestors lived that is stored in our DNA that makes one person hanker for city life and another for the quiet of the country?

As an introvert, I’ve spent most of my life trying to fit into an extrovert world. I tried to convince myself living in an apartment in a big city was what I wanted and working in a government office was the thing to do. Then I got older and wiser and just plain tired of trying to be something and someone I wasn’t.

If I had just listened to my child self and followed what made her happy, I would have saved myself a great deal of time, grief and moving expenses. Children always know their preferences especially when they are young enough not to care about what society says.

I’ve always preferred a forest, and not a forest view but being amongst the trees, down in the understory. As a preschooler, I would head outside and straight for the hedgerow that divided our property from the neighbour’s. I would spend hours tucked underneath the branches where it was cool and dark making up stories about magical animals and places. Once I started attending school, every recess I would scoot down to a small dell where a poplar forest stood. I loved that tiny green palace with its shimmering leaves that shivered with the slightest breeze breaking the sunlight into moving sculptures of dark and light.

It wasn’t until my forties when I would finally own a property that was nestled in the trees and for five years I lived in my dream environment. Even on the brightest, hottest days of summer I could find a cool, dark spot of shade where my light-sensitive eyes could enjoy looking at the sunny day from a comfortable perspective.

When it comes to work environment, a softly lit, quiet room with the sound of the rain outside is when I feel the most energized and productive. A sunny day does the opposite for me; I just want to find shade and read all afternoon or have a long afternoon nap. Give me an overcast stormy day, soft glowing yellow light and even better a fire roaring on the hearth and I’m a very happy camper.

kitchen fire

I am also a morning person, a very early morning person. Before sunrise, I take my coffee outside no matter what time of year. I go outside to experience the brief moment when the night creatures have all gone to bed and the day beings haven’t gotten up yet. The silence that exists is like the earth holding its breath and it feels as if all things are possible in that fleeting period of absolute silence.

So, I prefer the sun dappled shade of a forest and my home needs to reflect a sense of calm, warmth and dreaminess. I contemplated why I hold such preferences and I think I unconsciously try to recreate in the external world what my internal one looks and feels like.

My imagination and inspiration live in a place of shadows where characters and stories emerge from the half-light of a flickering candle flame, where the brooding clouds create a blank slate for my characters to act out their stories. And the in between places of my mind are where I catch glimpses of another world that ask to be placed on the page.

candlelight window

So what is your ideal place to live; the stark beauty of a desert, the vastness of an ocean view, a cottage in the forest, the open vistas of a prairie, or the exotic flora of a jungle? And what environment allows you to feel most comfortable, the hum and buzz of a city, the quiet of the country or something in between?