I’m riding high in the dentist’s chair. This is not where I expected to be after fighting a cold-turned-sinus-infection since January. Two weeks ago, facial nerve pain drove me to find something stronger than my arsenal of herbs. That’s how I met Dr. Bob, local dentist.
Now, I’m sucking down nitrous oxide, preparing for the crack and pull of a tooth the dentist can’t save. If the sequence of age for a woman is maiden, mother, crone, I must be working on my crone’s smile now. Yet, I don’t want to be thinking about what Dr. Bob is setting up to do. As beautiful as the falling snow can be, neither do I want to be thinking about what’s falling outside the office window.
Instead, I turn my thoughts to the characters of Rock Creek. I wonder which one of them I’m going to torture with a toothache. Cobb came to mind first, maybe because I wanted to sit in this chair with my toughest character. I imagine that his wife, Mary, would try folk remedies first to ease the agony of tooth pain. But once such remedies fail, people seek the torture of extraction in desperation.
George Washington felt such desperation. History records that he had one tooth a year pulled from the time he was 22 until he had none left to pull. As children in the US, we learn early on in school that our first president wore wooden teeth. And yet this is false. Washington wore dentures of human teeth. I suppose those who extracted teeth had a side gig for creating dental wear.
Cobb would likely liquor up before letting someone yank his troublesome tooth. I’m lucky to be sitting in a near trance, daydreaming about my characters as my own procedure progresses. I wonder how much corn whiskey it would take to equal novocaine shots and laughing gas. I’m not going to test any theories. I also wonder who would pull the tooth? Likely a blacksmith who had pliers.
My thoughts drift to gentler musings, and I realize how ready I am to return to my forest trail at McLain State Park. I’m not even craving the rock-hunting, just the healing vibes of the forest. I can picture the trail as it winds through the pine trees on a ridge overlooking Lake Superior. Its scent hangs sharply in the air I imagine as warmed by afternoon sun.
Arms outstretched, feet rooted above roots, ground solid, air clean and the roar of waves crash in the distance. Now, stepping forward not in a sprint but a relaxed walk. This is Shinrin Yoku — forest bathing. First developed in Japan during the 1980s, JulesPaige introduced it to Carrot Ranch in a flash fiction. It’s healing, restorative and rejuvenating. No wonder I recline and bathe in my imagined forest.
An interesting purpose of Shinrin Yoku is
“To transform our cultural relationship to forests through fostering deeper relationships and positive experiences with forested areas.”
Two years ago, I wrote an article about the push to create a wilderness area out of a mountain range in North Idaho. The idea is that we need wild spaces, even those that might be difficult to access. The leader of the project told me that it’s enough to know wild spaces still exist.
This also makes me think of Aldo Leopold, and his essay from A Sand County Almanac called, “Land Ethic.” He argues for humans to see the land as something more than a commodity; to see it as a community to which we all belong. He sees that we are not separate from the environment. Along with the idea of transforming our relationships to forests, or preserving wild spaces, so they exist, he acknowledges that we won’t succeed. But it remains important that we try. Leopold writes:
“We shall never achieve harmony with the land, anymore than we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve but to strive.”
From this single dentist’s chair, I’m connected to the past and future, to the Lake Superior pines not yet free of snow, to the wilderness I’ve seen and not seen, to forests on distant shores. For a time of healing, I’m going to imagine forest bathing.
April 19, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about forest bathing. You can use the Japanese term, Shinrin Yoku, or you can make up your own ideas about the phrase. Go where the prompt leads.
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Free Among the Trees by Charli Mills
Gabriella tapped the last spigot. She caught the trickle of clear sap in a wooden bucket. Daughter of a French trader and an Ottawan mother, she belonged to no one. She kept to the forests outside the ports and mining towns, trading maple syrup with the Black Robes at L’Anse. The forest kept her company, bathed her in its healing embrace. The Black Robes enticed she could become a neophyte, and claimed gospels in her native tongue. They didn’t know she could read her father’s books and already chose her classic path – she was happy as a forest nymph.