We go into the forest to find quiet, solitude, and healing. It’s something we long to do, and can be healing. Researchers in Japan and Korea have established evidence of restorative benefits from Shinrin Yoku — forest bathing.
That doesn’t mean this collection of stories basks under the canopy of therapy. Writers found many different paths into the forest.
The following is based on the April 19, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about forest bathing.
PART I (10-minute read)
Grandmother’s Gift by Jo/The Creative PTSD Gal
‘I’m going to share something with you, little one. Come,’ my grandmother said reaching for my hand leading me into the woods behind our house.
‘Take your shoes off love,’ that’s when I realized she was already barefoot.
She sat me under an old silver oak and positioned my feet on the earth in front of me. I felt calm and sleepy when she said, ‘Do you feel that? That’s mother Earth replenishing you. If you listen deep enough, she is also taking and healing your heart and soul. Whenever you feel like giving up, come back to her.
Cleansing Chaos by njoyslife
Life is placid outside Joy’s woodland cabin as she takes her morning walk. Nuthatches seem unthreatened by nuclear missiles. Chickadees show no interest in crime or collusion. Blue jays apparently don’t know the job market is shrinking. Woodpeckers aren’t worried that stocks plummet and robins aren’t fretting about local or national scandals. This verdant world teems with new life. Leaf buds swell on the tips of tree branches. A spotted fawn appears in a bed of wildflowers. Joy bathes in the misty forest, cleansing her heart of clutter, strengthening herself to resist for one more day humanly created chaos.
Landis Woods by JulesPaige
If the earth were to have a birthday party, what season would it be held in? Without question, my belief would be spring. Every day a new gift is unwrapped. A new birdsong composed. Just bathe in the forest, perhaps healing through Shinrin Yoku.
This season, this spring so late in arriving in the north,this year – I plan on walking through a preserved wood. One that leads from one highway to another – preserving a unique hidden space for local wildlife.
Just to pass through observing. And to count blessings.
seemingly ageless, Mother
blessed by Father Time
Forest Nymphs by Pensitivity
The path leads inwards,
Tread softly, gently,
Do not disturb
The fallen leaves of the dying.
Come closer, whispers,
You may hear a distant crying.
Russets, golds and reds,
Greens now yielding,
Look above you,
Dew drops glisten,
Nature’s tears on sunrays drying.
Peep through heathers,
Marvel at the Wood Nymphs lying
They are Forest Bathing,
Free from unwanted eyes prying.
Bounce off tree trunks,
Having fun, others frolic,
Chasing dreams, or at least trying.
Unspecified, Unseen, Undocumented by Paper Shots
A wrinkle on the surface of the water, while the breeze also stirs the top of what looks like wheat but it’s not – there was a book in a village shop, Companion to the Flora of the Lakes: one would know now, had the book been bought. Photos; Underexposed, overexposed. There’s a majestic tree, its trunk half in water, its branches shading a corner of this little bay, green berries, red berries, white tiny flowers, and two wild ducks (approximation necessary) swimming by, their little heads back and forth, the water parted in triangles whose sides will always vary.
Flutter by Akindu Perera
“It’s not real”, Lucy whispered as she completed the last fold of the paper butterfly. Her fingers rode over the edge of the butterfly, admiring how a piece of paper can be woven into a work of art. Ignoring its inanimateness, she threw the masterpiece across the room, hoping it would come to life.
The two perfectly creased wings sliced through the air, fighting for existence. The glorious vision of the butterfly fluttering across the room drew a fragile smile on Lucy’s face. Her smile was so delicate, that it shattered when the paper butterfly kissed the cold floor.
The Final Forest Bathing by Miriam Hurdle
Mr. Taniguchi hooked one end of the rope to his waist belt, attached the other to the entrance post of Aokigahara Forest located along the edge of Mount Fuji. He released the rolling rope as he proceeded, passing the sign of “No Entry.”
He saw many strings but found them ended in bushes. Hours into the patrol, he discovered a pair of weathered shoes. Brushing the leaves aside, a skeleton was revealed.
He took photos, got out several signs and nailed them on the trees. They read, “Don’t Commit Suicide. Your Life Is Precious.” He traced his way back.
Oh, My Love, My Darling by Juliet Nubel
He stood behind her and wrapped his weightless arms around her shoulders.
She didn’t react so he placed his cheek against hers and felt the dampness of her tears on his greying stubble.
When would she ever stop crying?
She was reading an article about forest bathing, something she had often advised him to do with her. She said it could help his coronary problems but stupidly he had never wanted to go.
He would stay entwined with her all night for he feared it would be impossible come tomorrow, the day they put his body in the coffin.
Is the Forest Enchanted, or the Company? by Anne Goodwin
We ambled through ash and spindly silver birch, its bark like alligator skin. A squirrel scampered across the path and up a tree. We heard the tap tap tap of a woodpecker but, despite straining our eyes and necks to scan the treetops, it remained elusive. Somehow, it didn’t matter; the shared not-seeing was enough.
I pressed further into the woods to inspect some bracken fungus clinging to the trunk of a dead tree like shelves made of scallops. I kicked at the sludge of fallen leaves with my wellies. At last I understood what magic brought my father here.
Missing the Point by Molly Stevens
“What’s sitting under that tree?” Chester said, peering through the front window at his neighbor’s yard. “Is it one of them weird ceramic gnomes? What’s that dad-blamed woman up to now?”
His wife, Ruth, said, “Myra is practicing a new kind of meditation called, ‘forest bathing.’ She says it relieves stress.”
“That sounds like one of them cockamamie things a tree hugger like her would do.”
“She said taking in the forest atmosphere is preventive medicine in Japan.”
“Don’t she know she lives in Maine? And I can’t see no forest. All I see is a bunch of trees.”
Recharge by Lisa Rey
Tom wasn’t sure if he believed in all this thing they called Shinrin Yoku. But he had been very stressed lately with work in the office and his girlfriend running off with a priest who left the priesthood to be with her. So he walked into the nearby forest, gave it a go. As he sat by the stream listening to its gentle rush, to the soft sounds of the birds conducting their daily conversations and felt the smooth fresh grass beside him, he suddenly understood. Sometimes you needed to just get away from it all to return anew.
First Answer by Debora Kiyono
Sitting at the porch, he takes off his muddy hiking boots wondering why it didn’t work. Often, he comes back from his Shinrin Yoku full of ideas and many solutions.
“It was just a dream! Let it go!” – said his girlfriend when he told her about it.
It was impossible. It had a non-stop replay in his mind, bringing enormous curiosity about a mysterious notebook.
When he comes in, a package on the table calls his attention. Immediately, he opens it.
A smile lights up on his face, while reading the cover of the book: “The Interpretation of Dreams.”
Finally Convinced by Reena Saxena
“Why forest-bathing?” My botanist beau loved the idea of this impromptu trip, but was not convinced of the nomenclature- Shinrin Yoku.
“Because we do not have clean air to breathe in, in our citadels of development….”
“The trees have purified the world for years, wherever they were allowed to take roots. We left them to grow in isolated patches called forests, and are now forced to take refuge there.”
“Every tree has its day.”
“And so do we. I’ll show you the cottage I plan to set up our home in, after we are married.”
Life was sheer bliss.
Visuonquest by Raymond Roy
So distant, is a stand of trees, a secret place, my mind at ease.
Forest’s edge, winter apples grow, increase my pace, zephyrs show impending snow.
Curled up ferns, visual pleasure, pine needle carpet, walk of leisure.
I’m not alone, chipmunk squawks, takeoff my shoes and itchy socks.
Frosty air, hot springs steam, ease in my feet and begin to dream.
Native boy on vision-quest, by the pool to have a rest.
Sacred forest clean and pure, my quest is it’s protection , I must secure.
Leaving my refuge keenly aware, it’s not only I but, trees need care.
Visitors by Hugh Roberts
“We’re safe here in the forest until Marlon gets back. All of you, continue to rest and gain energy from bathing in the dappled light of the forest. Hopefully, we have found our new home.”
For 27 days and nights, they waited for Marlon to return. There was an anticipation of excitement in the air when he came back.
“Marlon, what have you found out? Can we live here?”
“I’m afraid not, your majesty.”
“What? Why not?”
“It’s some of the lifeforms of this world, Sir. They cut down the trees. Soon, nothing of this world will be left.”
Forest Feast by Norah Colvin
Unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells assailed his senses. He dived into a pile of leaves.
“Would you mind!” squealed Skink.
“Sorry,” said Mouse, backing into Frog.
“Hey! This is my cockroach,” said Frog.
“Ewww!” said mouse. “Who eats cockroaches?”
Mouse’s belly rumbled.
Skink was eating a slug. Frog had a cockroach. Nothing for Mouse anywhere.
“Try mushroom,” suggested Frog.
Mouse hesitated, then began nibbling.
Flapping overhead sent Skink and Frog for cover. Mouse, oblivious, had been spotted.
Crow alighted and placed a gift of bread at Mouse’s feet.
“Thank you,” said Mouse. “I like bread, but I love mushroom!”
Spring’s Assurance by Liz Husebye Hartmann
Spring is late, delayed by a blizzard that left two feet of soggy snow, making my front stair’s existence a Schrödinger’s cat. When late April sun emerged, so did we.
The regional park’s informal trails are muddy, steep hollows deceptive in snowpack. The opening lake teems below:
An eagle’s nest, with eagles nesting;
A beaver swimming, teeth sharpened on trees newly felled;
Ducks ducking, splashing and diving;
One blue heron stretching his neck, hopeful of tasty minnows.
Gimlet-eyed geese glare at our noisy progress, while two muskrats make little muskrats at water’s edge, another few solitaires nibbling new growth.
Forest Bathing by Susan Sleggs
Where do you go to find peace
I go to the woods
The city sounds are far away
There are no other voices
The rays of sun filter through the branches
Birds flit from tree to tree
Squirrels chase each other
And pussy willows are soft grey
The stream babbles slowly by
And if I sit still long enough
A deer stops by to drink
The rabbit outruns the fox
And the trillium bloom pure white
Leeks and fiddleheads can be had for lunch
If you know where to look
Spring in the forest
My favorite time of year
Stark by D. Avery
Serena stopped often to breathe deeply, filling her lungs, her heart, her soul with the spruce incensed air. She loved walking this familiar path among the trees, but quickened her pace as she approached the high mountain meadow, delighting as always in the waving grass, the colorful wildflowers nodding the way to the small glacial lake cupped by the snowcapped mountain peaks. Serena drank it in. The guide suggested other experiences, but Serena always chose to return here.
“Serena, time’s up. Remove the apparatus and step out of the capsule.”
Sighing, Serena left the virtual wilderness, returned to reality.
Turn Back by Peregrine Arc
I bathe in the forest, hidden under a canopy. Jaguars, grizzlies and reindeer approach, bringing the jungle, the forest and the tundra with each step. I eat a banana for breakfast; some nuts and berries for lunch. For dinner, a polar bear offers me fish.
A crane approaches and pecks the air above my head deliberately.
“This is not yours, human. You have not taken care of any of it. Take your punishment and go.”
I stir and exit the forest, my clothes pinching tightly around me. It appears we’re still banned and setting fires.
PART II (10-minute read)
Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning
A book in the dirt. The words in the Earth. Composting cultures. Love and life. Sentiments and sentences. Fragments and fiction. Maps. Guides. Directions. Been there, done that. Tales of wars waged. Quill-stained pages written feverishly under a dancing flicker. A self-portrait. An autobiography. Selfie in longhand.
A book in the dirt. The wounds of battle spilling back into the soil. A broken heart crying out from a broken bind. A random thought: How her eyes were the green of a forest after a good rain.
Digital media. Littered literature. The many careless sins of man. Well-written. Rarely heeded.
Be Aware by Patrick M. O’Connor
They were told walking through the woods would bring them closer to nature. They said to be aware of their surroundings. It would be good for the soul, they said.
Stan and Jessica felt much more in touch with their own feelings about nature and each other.
They took their shoes off and strolled through the shallow stream holding hands.
As the afternoon began to succumb to dusk, they headed back to the lodge to rejoin their group.
By midnight they were itching terribly. Not only did their arms itch, but their legs too.
Poison Ivy and chiggers. Ugh!
The Wet Woods by Bill Engleson
“Yes!” I announce. “This will do the trick.”
“Be careful, sweetie. You’re parking too close. I won’t be able to open the door.”
“They make these stupid Park parking stalls way too small,” I mutter.
My stress is ratcheting up a notch.
“Think twigs,” she suggests. “Little bits of scattered stems. Resting on the forest floor. The quiet forest floor.”
“You’ll have to get out my side. Sorry.”
“No problem. Oh, look. Is that our group?”
“Two bus loads. Nope. Three! They look…quite international.”
“It’s the peak season, I guess. Well, lets get this over with. Visualize, sweetie. Visualize.”
Forest Bathing by Teresa Grabs
Jason awoke still smiling. The trees, the fresh air, the cool breeze faded. Contentment and peace lingered until defeated by reality. His morning routine is nothing more than a routine. His day is state planned for maximum efficiency. Nothing more, nothing less. Slipping into his black pants and gray shirt issued by the state, he longed to see the trees. Leaving his state provided compartment, putting on his face mask and stepping into the never-ending heat, he longed for fresh air and the cool breeze. Looking around at the bleak city, he longed to bathe in the forest again.
Flash Fiction by Sarah Whiley
Gravel crunched under my feet, as I began the hike through one of the youngest eco-systems in the world – the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Geothermal areas were marked on my map, as well as native plants and bird-life, to look for.
Feeling grounded, I breathed in the fresh mountain air, imagining the breeze was really the forest exhaling along with me.
I rounded the corner and saw steam rising from the aptly named baths in front of me. Glaring sun broke through the canopy.
Out of the fire and into the “Frying Pan Lake”? Shinrin-Yoku at its best, I thought.
Peace of Mind by Ritu Bhathal
The twigs crackled underfoot.
Leaves rustled in the gentle breeze that blew through the forest.
This was true peace.
Karen had heard about forest bathing, and she was determined to experience a piece of this natural healing.
Strolling along, she could hear the feint trickle of water.
Getting closer to the sound, it appeared to be accompanied by splashes and voices.
As she rounded the corner, Karen came face to face with a group of drunk men, submerged in a pool of water, having a jolly of their own.
Not quite the forest bathing she had been expecting!
Chasing Fads by Heather Gonzalez
Johnny heard of this new fad and, of course, he just had to be apart of it. Last week he had us doing Goat Yoga. Now we would be Forest Bathing, whatever that means.
We drove out to the woods and began to walk around. He seemed to be feeling something that I just wasn’t.
“When do we begin forest bathing?” I asked, smacking the bug on my arm.
“We already are.”
The day was already cloudy and threatening rain. When the water touched my skin, all I could think was, “At least now it feels like forest bathing.”
Trekking Travails by Anurag Bakhshi
“I’ll go first,” Tracy said, “but don’t peep, OK?”
I kept looking the other way as she stripped, and jumped into the lake in the forest.
But I had been dreaming of this moment for so long, that I just couldn’t resist taking a peek.
My Gawd! The glistening curvaceous body….the lustrous hair….the giant crocodile…
I almost panicked, but years of training and instinct immediately took over.
I hunted around desperately in my bag, time was of the essence here. This photo needed to be perfect if I had to have any shot at a Pulitzer.
Forest Bathing by Michael Grogan
The Carrot Street Naturist Society on their monthly outing was looking forward to engaging in some forest bathing.
Being naked in the woods was so much better than their weekly meetings in Marv and Marj’s back yard.
Preparations had been made, warnings issued to be wary of, rough bark, nettles, stinging insects, sticks, twigs, and anything pointy.
It was an enjoyable day the only disappointment was Dulcie Smith’s encounter with some poison ivy. She bent over at one point, and her left breast suffered the consequences. On the trip home, her husband promised to rub in some soothing balm.
Flash Fiction by Paula Moyer
At Girl Scout camp, Jean’s Girl Scout leader showed the girls how to shower in the woods. It looked – well, unreliable.
“This tin can has nail holes,” she explained and pointed. It hung by a string on a tree branch. “When you take your shower, fill this pitcher with water at the pump, and pour it in.”
The girls watched the demonstration, how water spit out in arcs from the can. “Stand under the can. Use the soap.” Beside the can, also on a string. “The trees are your shower curtain.”
Jean shivered under the can. Cold. Naked. Glorious.
Maid Marian’s #Metoo Moment by Anne Goodwin
After a grey and soggy winter, the sun makes everyone smile. But there’s a downside: the stink of sweat.
So when the merry men go off to fleece the rich, Marian fills a barrel with spring water and peels off her clothes. Looking up as a jay calls to its mate, she spots Friar Tuck in the hollow of an oak, leering, his hand in his robe.
Do others suffer such intrusions? Robin says she should be flattered. Bids her laugh it off.
Guide to Peace by Kerry E.B. Black
He fled, blinded by tears. Taunts and cruelty etching into his psyche. Heedless of direction, he dodged tree trunks, leapt tangles, and ducked beneath low-hanging vines until he panted into the silence of ankle-deep humus and the observation of hidden animals. He bent to relieve stitches and cramps.
Gentle breezes cooled tears on burning cheeks. Like teasing fingers, they brushed hair aside as if to reassure of his worth.
His nostrils flared to capture earthy perfumes so lush he could taste their rich decay and rebirth.
A delicate white flower bloomed in the shade, an incongruous guide to peace.
A Sunday Bath by Caitlin Gramley
Vanessa cringed when she heard the splash and giggles from behind. The short walk had turned into a two-hour trek. She turned, only to be greeted by the sight of two boys, now drenched from neck to toes. She mentally searched her van. Do I have anything to cover the seats?
“I told you boys to stay out of the creek. It’s too cold!”
“No it’s not!” The younger replied between chattering teeth.
“Look mom!” The oldest, now rolling on a bed of dry sand.
Breathe. Just Breathe.
“Boys will be boys, Dear.” Husband grinning ear to ear.
Picnic in the Forest by Calm Kate
We were warned not to stray from the path because this was the forest where the bears often picnicked and they preferred a human to stale sandwiches. Blood and organs it was claimed would feed their brain and enhance their health.
They had read that in the Daily Mirror and we all know that newspapers tell the truth. And the picnic hampers were doubtful diets anyway.
You could hear them bellow from their caves waking from their winter siestas. And a bear with a sore head would be difficult to handle even for a party of fit bush walkers.
Forest Bathing by Irene Waters
With difficulty Aaron place rollers under the cast iron tub then heaved it from behind. Imperceptibly it moved. For three days he pushed until eventually it sat in a small dell surrounded by the green forest which towered above him. He sank to his knees. Collecting wood for the fire he’d burn underneath the bath was the next chore. Then water. A big sigh showed his exhaustion. He stripped and stood arms stretched to the sky, legs akimbo, his body bathed in sunlight. His head tipped back, tall trees looming above him he said “Bath for barbeque. Shinrin Yoku.”
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.
Shinrin Yoku by Frank Hubeny
While forest bathing Michael saw her. He would say she wasn’t there except she was and then his breath grew deeper. He didn’t understand why he walked for almost a mile angry on this beautiful trail, in this mysterious quiet. The traffic had long ago turned to a hum and then it turned completely off. Why was he angry?
She said her name was Diana. She knew he didn’t understand what she meant. He was one of the smart ones caught in his head where robots were more real than people. And so she spoke more slowly, “Goddess Diana.”
Inspirational Walks by Luccia Gray
The Verger at Rochester Cathedral heard the author’s cane tapping the cobbled streets below his window. He must be on his way back from his daily, inspirational walk from Gad’s Hill.
Mr. Miles stepped out to greet his old friend. Turk trotted by his master’s side biting a dry branch collected in the woods.
‘A cup of tea, Mr. Dickens?’
‘Not today, Mr. Miles. The seventh instalment of Edwin Drood awaits.’
Miles sighed, watching him trudge up the hill, stopping to peer at the little graveyard under the castle wall where he had expressed his desire to be buried.
Into the Woods by Chelsea Owens
Silent sunlight dances down,
Caressing leaves and pine bough dreams;
Shaking, shading, singing, sighing –
Can you hear the moss-bent trees?
Fae or fauna tickle trailing, talking tendrils;
Minstrels swear to sensing magic
As they tiptoe mossy trails.
Blundering, we mention silence;
Eagerly, we rush the woods.
Picking flora, chasing fauna,
Errantly, like child-hoods.
Hush! The tree Ent spirits moan,
Their dormant tree-guard watch awaked.
See and feel and breathe the spirit
Of the stretching woods remaked.
Will you walk with careful footfalls
Down along the forest floor?
Will you whisper wistful wond’rings,
Questioning their strange folklore?
Turned Around by D. Avery
“Ever go off inta the woods, Pal?”
“Ever git lost?”
“Jist turned around.”
“Were ya scared?”
“Naw. It don’t matter not knowin’ ‘zactly where ya are, long as ya know where ya ain’t. Ain’t no place I’d ruther be ‘an in the woods.”
“‘Parently the Japanese developed goin’ inta the woods in the eighties.”
“De-veloped woods walkin’?”
“It’s called forest bathing. We oughta lead a group inta the woods, Pal.”
“I bathe alone.”
“S’posed ta make ya happier.”
“More connected. Hey, where ya goin’?”
“Cain’t hear ya Kid, bad connection.”
“Where ya headed?!”
“Inta the woods. Alone.”
Hero’s Journey on Earth Day by D. Avery
“Pal, yer back.”
“Yep. Why’s it so quiet roun’ here?”
“Guess ever one’s still off huggin’ trees.”
“Heard like, if she kin git her forest shoveled out.”
“Jeez. If any one kin shovel out a forest it’s Shorty. She’s a Titan.”
“I’ll say. Did ya happen ta catch her interview at Literary Titan? She done the Ranch real proud.”
“Yep, sure did.”
“Whatdya think Shorty’s inner hero is?”
“I reckon Shorty’s a buckaroo through and through. True ta herself and ta the Carrot Ranch Community. Boldly going where her inner prompts lead.”
“Heroic leader of Buckaroo Nation!”
Interview with Charli Mills at Literary Titans.Learn about our latest Vol. 2 project.
Congratulations Rough Writers for winning a Silver Literary Titan Book Award. The Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1 was recently reviewed through Literary Titan’s Book Review Service, earning a 4-star review.