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Tired? Stressed? Too much work, shopping, and time spent tethered to a screen? Perhaps a break is needed in which to do some quiet forest bathing.

Forest bathing first originated in Japan where it is known as shinrin-yoku. There are no fluffy towels, soy candles, or scented soaps involved because shinrin-yoku is a slow and tranquil walk through a pristine wilderness. It can become an uplifting experience – one with many well documented health benefits.

Alone or in a small group, select a forest with shrubs, ferns and a good density of old established trees. Stand among them for several moments, breathing slowly to release your mental chatter. When you feel a sense of inner quiet, place your attention on the natural world and begin a deliberately slow walk.

Try to engage all your senses by touching the textures of plants and tree trunks, listening to the quiet murmur of the forest environment and the occasional ring of birdsong. Focus your eyes on the surrounding scenery as you inhale and taste the aromas of the foliage. Essential oils are emitted from plants and trees to protect them from insects and predators, and this phenomenon has been described as, ‘natural aromatherapy.’ Through the stillness and your sense of immersion in nature, an experience of inner peace will grow within you.

The Japanese have a word, karoshi, which means death by overwork. There is so much stress among ordinary Japanese people, they were the first to recognize this problem and develop a way to deal with it. Studies have been conducted in Japan by Dr Quing Li, an Associate Professor at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School. His scientific data has proven that forest bathing can lead to a boost in one’s immune function and mood. A forest walk has also been hailed as a legitimate therapy for preventing hyper tension, depression and stress.

Here in Australia another initiative that aims to connect people with nature is found in the organization, Healthy Parks – Healthy People. Check out its website, one that is both interesting and information rich, at www.hphpcentral.com

To gain maximum benefit from a forest walk, rest when you feel tired and drink water if you are thirsty. Take plenty of time to sit and engage with the scenery, or read a book. Forest bathing is freely available for everyone to enjoy. Shinrin-Yoku’s central idea is to allow nature the quiet time and space in which to work its magic on you.

 

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Surprises can arrive out of the blue at any time. Several days ago a letter arrived in my inbox with a message that my blog has been awarded a place in the top 100 Nature Writing blogs on the web. I was amazed and delighted, particularly as I share this list with National Geographic, BBC Earth, the World Wildlife Fund and the Nature Conservancy. What an honour!

I began writing my blog in 2012 by publishing a weekly post. I selected this particular theme as I wanted to explore descriptive prose writing in the essay form, while combining it with my photography. To date I have published 193 posts and will continue to contribute monthly. This blog has become my joy and a labour of love.

 

Back Roads and Byways

A wide strip of winding road disappears into the hinterland behind us. Like some primordial serpent, it glides over hills and slips down embankments, all the while grasping every contour of the land in its close embrace.

Nearby a towering tallowwood captures our attention. Its strong trunk, covered in rough shards of orange and brown coloured bark, gives way to multitudes of smaller branches. These continue their climb toward the light, diminishing in size until each bough ends in a branchlet, then in a twig.

The roadways also mirror this pattern. Side roads branch away from the centre, morphing from bitumen into gravel and onward into sand. Many of these roadways end in a narrow dirt track overgrown with grasses and scrub.

The hinterland: all those places back, beyond, and further out, calls to the traveller.
“Come follow me as we explore the back roads and byways. My scenery—remote, beautiful, and untouched—will heal and inspire you. In these wondrous places you will learn to appreciate my stillness, nature’s intense colours, and the open sky ringing with birdsong. Enjoy your discovery of secret highlights and beauty spots along these ways.  You will be forever enriched by them.”

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I –
I took the one less travelled by.”

Robert Frost

 

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A small rural village in Queensland’s Samford Valley marks the site of our home. Here on Australia’s east coast, surrounded by two state forests and four rugged mountains, we enjoy exploring ways to engage with the beauty of our natural surroundings.

One favourite destination is a large mountain, Mount Glorious.  It rises to a height of 600 metres above sea level. In the oppressive heat of our high summer we often head to its crest and cooler temperature, where we spend a comfortable day.  Driving through the mountain’s splendid scenery we are always amazed at its abundance of native rain forest cover—mighty trees, tall palms, and numerous ferns. Flocks of tropical birds, white cockatoos, and brilliant parrots often fill the skies.

On a recent visit, a sign post entitled, The Westridge Outlook, caught our eye. Exiting onto a dirt road we followed this to a car park. Here a wide board walk, enclosed by a fence of metal railings stretched ahead. This walkway was built to encircle an immense rocky outcrop.

Strolling along we admired a mixed forest of grey gums, spotted gums and tall tallowwoods.  Long ago these original timber forests were harvested by timber cutters using only axes and cross-cut saws. The fallen trees were loaded onto wooden carts and pulled by a team of oxen to the nearest sawmill. Thankfully this deforestation was discontinued, and today its remains are protected as a reserve for public enjoyment.

Reaching the half-way mark, the boardwalk expanded into a large viewing area, to expose an open outlook. The rims of distant mountain ranges, shrouded in a blue haze, framed the horizon. We stood in awe at the view of Lake Wivenhoe, our main dam and water catchment area. The upper reaches of the Brisbane River snaked through the landscape, as the D’Aguilar State Forest spread its abundant natural beauty beneath us. It was a breathtaking sight.

   We finished our walk around the ancient rocky escarpment, to end at the point of our beginning. Hopefully other visitors will also discover this hidden treasure, and the magnificent views on offer at the Westridge Outlook.

 

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colours-of-broome

“The earth has music
for those who will listen.”

~ George Santayana

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Billabong, 3

Beauty is the promise of happiness

Stendhal

Winter’s biting cold and bitter westerly winds have created a bleak landscape. Nature is shrinking in upon itself as it rests before the arrival of spring. Instead of complaining about the weather, I’ll focus this month on the theme of ‘beauty.’ Enjoy these five installments.

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Snow bush

As our cold and windy winter settles in again, right on cue the Hawaiian Snow Bush bursts into its garment of white. In gardens everywhere this delicate shrub or small tree, the Brenia nivosa, provides us with the closest visual suggestion of snow that we could experience. Native to the Pacific Ocean Islands, its papery-thin leaves produce leaf tips of the purest white, giving the impression that the bush has been dusted with drifts of soft snow. As we follow the leaf tips down toward the trunk, its leaves beneath are a rich, dark green.

Snow bush detail 1

One may be tempted to think that the Snow Bush is covered with white blossoms, but hiding under the lower foliage nestle its tiny green flowers. Another variety of snow bush, the Rosea Picta, adds pink to the white and green foliage, leading one to a false impression of a flowering shrub. As winter progresses, the white or pinkish-white leaf tips slowly turn green. And as the Hawaiian Snow Bush loves water, if kept moist it rewards us with its beautiful disguise of winter’s snow.

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Corn_field ripening

Fields of ripening corn
stretch into the far horizon.
Time stands still
in this warm Indian Summer.

Colorful-Sunset-Over-Wheat-Field-incredible-awesome-beautiful-hd-high-quality-nature-desktop-background-hd-wallpapers-ofsunset-field-free-download

As light softens and fades
the sky fills with crimson and gold.
Another day ends
to find us homeward bound.

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