"And into the forest I go
to lose my mind
and find my soul."
Sitting quietly drinking tea this morning I think I had an epiphany… something about FOMO (the fear of missing out) and this social media world of needing to be constantly connected.
Strangely it started with a conversation about my boy and him not eating his morning snack or lunch at school due to a fear of missing out; that by sitting and eating his friends might run off to play and he’d be left behind. In the conversation my friends told me many of their children had the same anxieties. It got me thinking about the need to feel connected, constantly included in something, and the fear of missing out.
I know from my own experiences particularly on social media there’s been a creeping need to keep checking in, to see what other’s are doing, to read the comments to my posts, to feel constantly connected. My days finish with long nights where I fight between the need to turn the lights off and the want to feel I’ve been ‘filled up’. I feel this want to keep having the beautiful conversations I am so fortunate that social media has facilitated. I keep trawling for imagery that inspires, words that inspire and heartfelt connections. Those are all beautiful things but sometimes they come at the expense of connecting with myself and creating my own meaningful and ‘real’ experiences. It’s too easy to let it slip into (lets be honest) an addiction. And the reality is not all days can be concluded feeling inspired, and that’s ok. But instead of acknowledging that I keep trawling, checking in, having conversations, until either I’m filled up or my eyes involuntarily close.
The beauty of social media and the virtual world is that it’s bursting with beautiful imagery and people’s stories. That’s why I go there – to be inspired, to connect. Mostly its all genuine and sincere but I know from my own experiences that it’s the best of life, its curated moments, and whilst ‘real’ in their singularity its not a true representation of life; nevertheless the fear of missing out keeps me there, and often.
So I made a decision, with my head filled with all of these thoughts that I would go to my favourite place, the place where my overwhelming sense of connection to nature is greater than the fear of missing out. The forest.
I discovered the old pine forest when I first moved to our little haven in Spargo Creek. It was winter, bitterly cold and wet but I needed to walk. With one foot still in city life and a head full of anxieties and the other foot inspired by the vision I had of creating, the vision for Oak and Monkey Puzzle, I put on my raincoat and gumboots and just had to walk.
‘My’ forest is old and undulating, in parts its thick with blackberry. Some of it seems impenetrable whilst others give beautiful views between the trees that beckon you to keep travelling further. I remember a fear of getting lost at first but knowing if I travelled uphill I’d always find the dirt track, so I just kept wandering, meandering and letting the forest lead me deeper. As I did I was completely overwhelmed by the smells, the sensation of the soft needles underfoot and the incredible and almost form-like thickness of the quiet – the thick pine needle forest floor sucking up the sounds. The quiet was spatial and all enveloping. The experience, that very first time, left me literally euphoric – so blissed out that I promised myself this was something I need to continue doing and every now and then I’m reminded, beckoned in fact to go back to my happy place, a place that gives me so much with seemingly so little. I have learnt since that day that it really is true that it’s experiences not things that nurture me, ground me the most. It’s a humbling realisation.
So with a little folding chair hung over my arm, camera, raincoat and gumboots on today I walked up to the forest to wander and sit, to soak up the forest, its tangibly ‘thick’ quiet, to reconnect with the ‘real’, to sort through all these thoughts in my head and to switch off from the fear of missing out.
As I walked the voices in my head quietened, the periphery faded out, the little details became clearer and I found an incredible in-the-moment focus. Forest bathing is a real thing, shinrin-yoku. It’s the experience of simply ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’ and it’s become a recognised preventative health care and healing in Japanese medicine. It’s not rocket science to know this is good for me.
Letting my feet and my senses lead me I stopped in a little clearing and unfolded this little chair. I sat, listened and watched. I smelt the scent of rain that was dense in the air. It’s been months since we’ve had rain and it felt like not only had the dust settled but also life’s pace. Its incredible the things you see when you truly stop. The light and shadow mesmerizingly danced across the forest floor. A small snake moved its way in front of me, the first I’ve seen in 4 years since moving here. We acknowledged each other with a glance before it continued on its way. Strangely I wasn’t scared. It had as much right to be here. Keeping respectful distance we could both share this space.
It’s hard to describe the feeling of being truly connected in time and place. What I know is that it is experiences and not things that inspire me the most. And so my hope is that this page is a conversation between my favourite experiences and I. With every season and all its ever-shifting nuances there’s so much to see, feel and share. I moved to the country with a purpose - to truly experience life. And whilst you may chose to live vicariously through this page I ask one thing, and that’s that you don’t fall into the fear of missing out but instead are motivated to get out there and appreciate the little things, and find the ‘real’ parts of life that inspire you the most.