— written June 24th, 2021 in SE Michigan —
Perhaps you have heard of “forest-bathing”. There are several books on the topic, and I’ve managed to sample one or two. I believe the basic concept is something like “cleansing” yourself from the inside out, by simply BEING in a forest: allowing the sights, sounds, and other sensations of the natural world to purge away stress and tension from living in today’s urbanized, fast-paced lifestyle. This is perhaps akin to treating “nature deficit disorder” by indulging in a slow and deliberate nature hike, hosting an outdoor family get-together at a lake… or perhaps taking the kids out for a lesson in finding doodlebugs (ant lions, or lacewing larvae).
Tonight I indulged in what I am going to label “nature-bathing”. At first I intended to use the trees, rocks, and downed logs by the creek (which Google Maps calls Rattle Run) as an outdoor gym of sorts. I headed for a “shortcut” using my uncle’s freshly mowed trails to get to the area of the creek I thought might make a suitable spot to do my modified lunges and other exercises.
At the top of the hill which seemed soooooo high and steep to me at the age of 4 or even 7, sits an old fashioned (completely metal and totally mechanical, no plastic or computerized components) farm implement — I believe it might be called a thresher. I recently found another one, forgotten amongst some young bushes in a field which once was the hayfield. All these places have solid, immovable “homes” in my memory, for they were all beloved landmarks to me, back when I FIRST began to explore nature and to be aware of the Father’s Hand upon it. To me, this FATHER is that benevolent Presence that I have forever been MORE certain of than perhaps I am of my own self, or of other humans. I know that sounds weird, but truth be told I did NOT bond with any humans as an infant, therefore I bonded much more readily with nature (plants, animals, and places) — AND with the One whom I have always considered as “He who OWNS all this” — or something like that. In simple terms, to me the Father IS the Creator. No, I am not Native American, although my Mate is, and we do share similarities in our easy-flowing interactions with nature. Lest I bore you or chase you away with my personal terminology, let me say briefly that I wish I could describe to you the zillion special places that are nearly FRIENDS to me… and now I will drop that point and continue instead my description of this night’s nature-bathing.
Up from the top of the above mentioned hill where sits the metal farm implement, away from Rattle Run creek, there now lies a corn field. The entrance is rough, and I know WHY the ground here looks ever-so-slightly different than most places where tractors enter and leave cropland. In this very spot there USED to be an old shack on top of a cement-brick foundation that was a “Michigan basement”… a tiny, dilapidated house which was HOME to two separate families in the time before my family moved off this land (temporarily). The first family was the “Quicks” — but I did not know them. Apparently, my brothers and perhaps even my sisters were friends with the Quick children. Being over a decade younger than most of my siblings, I knew a totally different family who dwelt at the top of the hill across the road from my “huge” hill at one corner of my childhood home. These were the Brenleys — not sure about the spelling, but I attended elementary school (through third grade) with one of the boys, and I eventually saw the mother, father, and two youngest children get killed off as last-minute, easily acquired human sacrifices. I guess I will have to save THAT story for the more “hardcore” of my two 10.05 books (at the time of this writing, that is how I am imagining the publishing of my own unique “life story” for my fiftieth birthday, which — at the time of this writing — is still over 3 months away).
Before heading DOWN the hill toward Rattle Run creek, I looked out over the corn field past Brenley’s old spot. Five deer stared back at me, and I wondered if it was the same small herd I keep running into whenever I walk the land here, so far this summer. Even my Mate got to see at least one or two of them. The little herd seems to have a distinctly dominant and unusually tall doe who acts as matriarch (forgive me, I know nothing of whitetail herd dynamics, other than my own minimal observation). What I DO know so far is that I KEEP running into deer, and 3 out of 4 times there is ONE doe who snorts at me, often while the others continue grazing or walking cautiously forward. Of course, if I do not know they are there and walk too quickly into their area, one or more of them bolts, and the dominant doe often lingers behind, performing her characteristic snort. Tonight I got a LOT of her snorting on video (from which I will eventually extract the most relevant audio and couple it with more interesting visuals rather than just empty forest, lol)… Perhaps I can return to this “bit” (this “post” or “article” or “story”) — this page — at a future date, and add photos and links to video and audio. Tonight, I will be doing well just to WRITE about my nature-bathing. Moving on.
So, leaving the five deer in the corn field at the top of the hill, I made my way along the winding mowed path, down along the creek. One particular tree stood out to me, and I removed the fabric I had slung around my neck and had tucked beneath my light rain jacket, to place it as a little ground-level “seat” so as not to harm the thin knit pants I was wearing. Well… to be fair, I DID manage to do a few sets of modified lunges and several other exercises, before plopping my bottom down in front of that tree, leaning back against the bark and facing the creek, lowering myself so that it was then not far below eye level. I sat there for perhaps 25 minutes or so, reclined against my new favorite tree, thoroughly enjoying both the nature sensations AND the beautiful deep bass engine sounds that I was hearing from a not-too-distant road where there is a local small-time classic car show every Wednesday night. I immediately declared Wednesday nights around 8pm to be MY TIME to go to either the creek, or to the fields beyond — to enjoy nature AND muscle car engine sounds at the SAME time — something I delight to indulge in, whenever possible. 😀
It wasn’t until I had sat there for more than half an hour that I discovered perhaps the BEST part about the spot I had chosen. As I suspected, the deer came down toward the creek as dusk settled — I had seen several of their bedding-down places in this low ground, and had even used one of these to sit in myself, during another time of nature-bathing, perhaps a week ago. But THIS time, I was BETWEEN the deer and the creek, at dusk. THIS time, there was a rather large TREE between them and me and the creek. Cool! After hearing several snorts of the matriarch off to one side, and getting much of it on video (for the audio), I soon heard the VERY close footfalls of another deer directly on the other side of my tree. Being practically ON the ground, with my head even lower than if I had been sitting UP, for the first time in my life I worried that I might get KICKED by a deer, if I were to scare her!! LOL, I hung in there as long as I could, but eventually I moved, and the deer was history.
Another ten minutes or so and it was getting dark enough that I HAD to start heading out of the woods, before I could no longer see my way. With the old red cow barn clearly in sight at the top of the hill, I paused to take some photos. (perhaps I can download them to my laptop and paste them in later) There she was! The matriarchal doe sauntered into view and stopped to watch me, ears raised acutely, tail twitching, nose sniffing the air. I do not even remember if I had the video running and caught her on it, or if I had it off (to take photos) — but I did NOT want to spook her by altering my behavior. We watched each other until she sauntered off, AWAY from the creek. Darn it! She was headed toward the road, where I needed to go in order to SEE my way out — too dark now to make my way, if I were to go OFF the path and over the collection of downed trees on the forest floor, heading directly toward the barn.
To make a long story short, I somewhat “danced” with this deer and two others (the latter eventually took advantage of my going AWAY from the creek to relax and get closer to it), around and up the other side of the hill. Like I often do, I started TALKING to the deer, especially to the matriarch when the path turned, and I had no choice but to pass close to her current hiding spot. I did my happy, childlike little bubbly talk, “Frannie Boo chatter” like I do sometimes alone with God in my “Fran Van” or “Sunshine Cave”. Since I got attached to God and to nature at such an early age — bonded with them as most children bond with humans — I do often resort to this childlike chatter — even silly song, at times — AND the animals seem to respond well to it!! I was VERY grateful for that tonight, because I REALLY did not want to spook that matriarch doe and associate myself with motions that made me seem like I was CHASING her. Because technically, I WAS, due to the path I had to take. Moving at a slow but steady pace, I just started verbally reassuring her — knowing full well that my TONE is what matters, not the words — and then just kept chattering a bit, vocalizing all my simple little observations of air and sound and sight as I made my way past her and up the hill. I never heard her again this night. Mission accomplished: I disturbed her as little as possible, AND exposed her to my presence another time in the most positive manner I could manage. LOL. Now you KNOW I am crazy — I am concerned about disturbing wild deer and making them uncomfortable, hahaha. But to me, this is just basic RESPECT for nature. I do the same with pets, with people, even with THINGS. Imperfectly, but respectfully, I do not FORCE myself on others. I do not allow them to hurt me (best as I can), and I try to let them know I am not interested in hurting them. If I need to hunt for food, now — THAT is something different from my nature-bathing. 😉
More for the purpose of my own memory than anything else, I would like to conclude by saying that I had an awesome time even AFTER I got back to the road. I video-recorded fireflies, took photos of the fading sunset, and THEN I noticed this click-click-clicking in the air. A BAT!! This one particular bat kept swooping overhead, changing direction like a zero-radius (zero-turn) mower, “on a dime” you might say. I even managed to get some video of THAT — hooray! I only wish there were more TIME in a day, so I could upload my footage to laptop and to my backups online… and then to create shorter clips that meet my personal standards for at least the lowest level of “public-ready”. LOL. What a BEAUTIFUL night!! After my nature-bathing I spent some time with my FAVORITE of all God’s creations: my Mate. Good night. It is 1:22am… wish my MIND would turn OFF!
–> Thursday, June 24, 1:23am 😀
(hopefully pics and links to follow, future-wise)
–> added a few pics & links to books after blog post, Friday, June 25, 10:50pm (EST)