Mary Oliver (1935-2019) is one of my favourite poets. I always find comfort and joy in her writing, whenever I pick up one of her collections. She’s brilliant at finding words for feelings and exceptionally sharp when it comes to identifying subtle notions. Therefore, when I went for a little roadtrip across the island, indulging in the beauty of the Majorcan landscape, her poem When I am Among the Trees came to my mind.
The almond trees in bloom create a magic landscape all over the island during the months of January and February, coating the fields with delicate white and pink flowers. Every single year. They’ve seen war and famine and now they’ve seen Covid-19 too. Not that they flinch… I’d even say that the blossom this year is more impressive than ever! Or maybe we just cherish it more? Maybe we’ve (finally) grown better at appreciating the nature that surrounds us?
Shinrin-yoku | Forest bathing
Way before the pandemic, several studies have shown that the health benefits to gain from spending time in nature are multiple. And yes, there’s a japanese word for it: Shinrin-yoku. Whereas the de-stressing effect from walking in the countryside or in the wood is commonly known, forest bathing takes the experience a step further. Hence, to fully exploit the physical and mental benefits it’s recommended that we immerse ourselves in nature with our senses open and receptive (read more about Shinrin-yoku here).
I don’t know whether Mary Oliver knew about nature’s benefits in a more holistic approach. However, she did find comfort and strength from trees. They urge her not to rush back to her everyday life (Stay awhile) and help her visualise a better —a conscious and present— version of herself. Furthermore, the trees point out how we tend to complicate life and in the act forget about the things that matter the most: (…) and you too have come / into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled / with light, and to shine.
ReadWhen I am Among the Trees here
When I am among the trees, especially the willows and the honey locust, equally the beech, the oaks and the pines, they give off such hints of gladness. I would almost say that they save me, and daily. I am so distant from the hope of myself, in which I have goodness, and discernment, and never hurry through the world but walk slowly, and bow often. Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, ”Stay awhile.” The light flows from their branches. And they call again, ”It's simple,” they say, ”and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.”