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How trees teach us about connection

We're delighted to share a guest blog written by Marmalade supporter, and Nature Therapist at Woodland Wellness Centre, Nadine Carr.

What is the connection between the world wide web, connectivity, bugs and loneliness?

Are you struggling to see the connection? Do you think perhaps I am pulling your

leg? Well, there is, I’m not pulling your leg and I talk about these daily in my work. No, I am not a techy person, in fact quite the opposite! Let me explain. I am a Wellness Therapist who uses nature and especially trees to help heal peoples mind, body & spirit. I take them for Shinrin Yoku walks (aka forest bathing), in beautiful woodland near Ross on Wye where my center is based.

Shinrin Yoku is an ancient Japanese practice which is now spreading across the world and has had more research done than any other complementary modality. All of which has confirmed what the Japanese have know, that it really works! Our western world has to know how and why it works, before it will embrace something.

So, that is basically what I do, but what is the connection above? It turns out people are very like trees, and we can learn a lot from being among trees. Let me tell you about some of the similarities.

One of the first things I explain to people on a Shinrin Walk is about the World Wide Web, not the one associated with your computer. The WWW, which in the tree world is also called the Wood Wide Web, refers to what goes on beneath our feet as we stand in a wooded area. Trees put down roots, a phrase we use when we refer to settling down, these roots extend out and down over a large area. Each tree connects to it’s neighbour regardless of whether they are of the same species or not. Wouldn’t it be great if we people could get along like that?

Just like us, trees also grow in family units where a parent tree will have several young trees growing from its seeds, with their roots attached to the parent tree to get support.

This underground superhighway of connectivity is not just used by trees, it is also used by fungi. The fungi and trees are like us in so much as they are dependent on each other to exist, fungi break down minerals in the soil so the trees can take them in through their roots. The trees provide a steady supply of sugar which is the food of fungi.

I use these characteristics of trees to help people see how important it is for us to connect with each other, the old saying, “No man is an island”, is so true. We were created to live as part of a tribe, group or community, whatever you like to call it, because we are stronger, and can help each other for the common good. Interestingly a single tree grown alone with struggle to survive but planted with others and it will thrive, we all need company!

I find that people who have become disconnected with those around them find the thought of reaching out to them a daunting task. However, they seem to find it easier to connect with trees and then from there taking the next step of connecting with people seems easier.

I regularly take groups out where no one knows anyone else and as such there is little chatter at the start while we assemble. By the time we return to the cars for the tea ceremony they start chatting freely, and often are exchanging contact details to be able to stay in touch. Trees are great at creating a feeling of calm and relaxation which affects

people in a positive way and makes connectivity much easier. Part of the reason for this is the bugs, not the nasty ones of the internet but the creepy, crawly, flying ones that inhabit the woods.

Watching butterflies flit about in the dappled sun on a woodland bath with the sounds of birds singing in the trees causes awe and wonder in us if only we take the time to stop and enjoy. That awe and wonder helps to keep both our minds and our bodies young, so forget all those expensive lotions and potions, just go be a kid again!

I am sure most of you know the smell of lavender and probably pine, but did you know all trees give off a smell? These smells are a chemical called phytoncides, some are strong like pine while others are soft like spruce which has a musky smell. They are often very noticeable when a tree is under attack from bugs, and they do it to warn other trees of the danger, just as we would shout out. However, they also do it to defend themselves. Whatever the reason those phytoncides that are in the air are very beneficial to our health both physical and mental, in fact there is quite a list of benefits to be had.

I have extracted many of the aspects of Shinrin Yoku and created a new service which I call “Walking Away from loneliness,” where I organise a pleasant walk, in beautiful woodland. Very quickly I find people relaxing, chatting, and making connections. We stop in a few places and I give a few tips on how to use trees to improve their health. I have seen people who don’t get to mix with others as they live alone, work from home and go long periods without talking face to face with someone. Covid has caused loneliness in many people of different ages, but my “Walking Away from Loneliness” is the perfect antidote.

If you would like to find out more about any of what is in this blog please feel free to contact me by email – I would love to tell you more.


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