Forest Bathing

This week’s WordPress photo challenge  asks us to ‘share a photo that captures something reflected back to you in a way that made you look at your surroundings differently.’

I took the photo below one autumn a few years ago but it is still one of my favourites.


It was taken in a Japanese garden in a little country town an hour’s drive north of where I live.   The red tree growing in the water challenges my usual way of seeing the world.   The fact that water reflects the sky so accurately adds to effect.   My pre-conceived ideas that trees are green and grow in the earth are turned upside down.

The imminent destruction of the biggest, oldest tree in my neighbourhood (see my last two posts) has led me to think about trees a lot this week.   The tree felling is due to happen on Saturday.   I don’t want to be here and have been trying to work out where I can go that will keep me busy for hours on end.

I could go and see friends but then I’d probably just end up talking about the tree felling and getting myself even more upset.   Yesterday I went and spent some time in a local bush reserve.   Walking beneath the tall eucalyptus trees helped me balance and ground my energy.

In the comment section of a previous post someone said I had been forest bathing.   I’d heard this phase before but it wasn’t until last night that I read about the healing benefits of spending time in the forest.   After my experience in the forest yesterday I am convinced that spending time in the forest absorbing the energy really can lower the heart rate and calm anxieties.

After finding the photos of the red trees I’m thinking I might make the trek across country and go and visit these trees once again.   It’s autumn over here in Oz but this year the weather has been very cold and wet.   There haven’t been many sunny days.   Fingers crossed Saturday brings some sunshine and I make the pilgrimage to see these these extraordinary trees.    I might even make Saturday the day when I buy myself that new camera I’ve been promising myself.


The woman who hates trees

My neighbour hates trees.   For the past two weeks her yard has echoed with the whine of chainsaws as the big gum trees and several smaller trees in her yard are sawed off at ground level.  The  bushy vegetation is being removed with a brush cutter.    This morning the saw started up again at 8.30 am.   My nerves snapped and I swore so loudly I think she heard me.  “Shut the fuck up,” I yelled in a most unladylike fashion.

When I went outside later she called me over to the fence and told me what she is doing. She has recently retired and doesn’t want to keep looking after a garden.    She was going to sell her house but then realised that if she spent the amount of money the agent wanted as commission she could make her yard completely maintenance free.  She is going to cover the whole area with pebbles.   I was completely gobsmacked by this perverse logic I could think of no suitable reply.

She then told me that she has convinced the land owner over the back to cut down the big eucalypts directly behind her property.   She is worried they will fall on her house.  The destruction is going to occur next weekend.


The brick wall in the photo is the woman’s garage.   Her house is some distance away.   I really don’t know how she has forced the land owner to cut down the trees.  She did say she had to fight him to get him to agree.  He wanted to cut down the over hanging branches but she is insisting the trees are totally removed.

I’ve been in grief since I heard.   There are many native birds and animals who live in these trees including koalas.     The big tree in the photo is so old it must be home to many possums and birds.   I hope they somehow get wind of what is about to occur and find safe places to hide before the destruction begins.





All week long I have been reading about Basho and the concepts behind his haiku.  I learn that, rather than seeking the seclusion of the monastery, Basho chose the path of the yugyô hijiri, the wandering holy man or wayfarer.  “traveling the countryside was a form of ascetic practice that sharpened both his poetic creativity and his religious vision.”


“Despite the variety of occupations and lifestyles, Bashō sees all people as wayfarers.  Whether or not the boatman and horseman realize it, their life is a journey that ends only in death.  But it is not enough for Bashō just to recognize this fact, he feels compelled to embody it directly and concretely in the way he lives.  By living as a wayfarer, he “real-izes” the inherent structure of reality.  In doing so he “moves with the deepest grain of reality.”

I have long thought of myself as a spiritual nomad – a wayfarer on the road of life.

Wayfaring haiku
written on the journey
from then and now

Elsewhere I read – “Through invoking powerfully juxtaposed images of nature, Basho strove to achieve amari-no-kokoro, the state a poem reaches when the heart and soul of a poem leaps at us from a place beyond the words themselves to leave an ‘aftertaste’ in the center of the reader that is haunting.

DSCF1101 (3) - Copy

The Narrow Road Within

With strange synchronicity I see that today’s prompt word on WordPress is ‘panicked’.  A feeling of panic was precisely what came over me when I attempted to write a blog post this morning.  I have been reading about Basho, haiku and haibun.   These are all complex subjects and I am still decoding what I’ve read.  I want to write a series of blog posts about it all but when I try to do so I am engulfed in panic.   How can I do the subjects justice?   Will I get it right?   How can I dare to offer an opinion when there are so many experts out there?


Writing helps me clarify my thoughts.   Blogging gives me a way of communicating with others and, hopefully, opening up a dialogue.  I’ll let my fear of getting it wrong take a back seat and plunge in.  I’ll begin with some thoughts on haibun writing.   (Haibun is a Japanese form of travelogue that was developed by the poet Basho (1644-1694).    Basho’s classic haibun is titled “Oku no hosomichi” –  (translation) The Narrow Road to the Deep Northor The Narrow Road to the Interior. )

In an article by Sam Hamill*  – – I read an explanation of ‘Oku no hosomichi’ –

“Oku means “within” and “farthest” or “dead-end” place; hosomichi means “path” or “narrow road.” The no indicates a possessive. Oku no hosomichi: the narrow road within; the narrow way through the interior.”

Hamill says of The Narrow Road –  “Basho … is not looking outside himself; rather he is seeking that which is most clearly meaningful within, and locating the “meaning” within the context of juxtaposed images, images which are interpenetrating and interdependent. The images arise naturally out of the kokoro or shin — the heart/soul/mind.”


“his journey is a pilgrimage;   it is a journey into the interior of the self as much as a travelogue; it is a vision quest which concludes insight.  The means is the end, just as it is the beginning.   Each step is the first step, each step the last.”

The Buddhist concept of the interconnection of all things resonates in Basho’s haibun and haiku.    It is in nature that Basho experiences the intense interpenetration of heart, mind and soul.   While the obvious place to take this blog post now is into a complex dissertation on the ways and means Basho employed in writing both haiku and haibun  I seem to have gone so deeply interior words are eluding me.


Hopefully I will find the words to express my thoughts in further blog posts but for now I shall ponder the complexities of kokoro in silence.  Each step is the first, each step is last…


*Sam Hamil is an American writer, peace activist and  Zen Buddhist.

Season Change

2017-04-08 16.16.31-01

I took these photos  a couple of weeks ago.   It was late on a Sunday afternoon.  The previous few weeks has been delightfully warm and summery – strange weather for early April.   There was a dreamy, not quite real, quality to the light.

2017-04-08 16.15.30-01

The next day I had to drive down to the city.  As I was taking a coffee break in a country town I noticed storm clouds were gathering.

2017-04-11 11.14.50-01

Since then the temperature has plunged.   Wintery grey skies hang low and it rains, rains, rains.  Down here in southern Oz we seemed to have skipped autumn and gone straight to winter.

mobile phone photos processed in Snapseed for



When I was very young I lived with my family on the shores of a vast salt lake.  We moved to the city when I was four  – the country was left behind and never revisited.   My childhood memories are of suburban streets and holidays on the beach.    The inland lake and the flat plains surrounding it became a mythic land I visited only in dreams.

illusionReturning to the lake shore now, all these decades later, my eyes are stretched into a haze of blue.   Is this what I saw as a baby?   Did my infant eyes attempt to focus on the horizon only to drift into illusory realms where nothing is quite as it seems?   Did this vision of infinite possibilities, probabilities and improbabilities influence my approach to life? – the landscape as a Buddhist primer for babies.

prompt –

(elements of this post appeared on my old blog “Art and Life” is a different format)