Cast & Blast

How ‘forest bathing’ and ‘earthing’ can launch you right out of your own generation

Writing has always come easily to me. No doubt due to my genetics, or lack of, once I sit down all I have to do is get that first sentence and the rest simply rushes out as if a dam has broken.

This time around I had help when I stopped by the Packet a few days ago and was handed a letter addressed to me from a gentleman who lives in Roswell, Georgia. I really believe that the many texts, e-mails and especially handwritten letters I receive on a fairly regular basis are what keeps me wanting to write.

Honestly, it is flattering, but putting that aside, these communications inspire me week after week.

The letter was from John Howard who, as it tuned out, is a close friend of one of my favorite Lowcountry old-timers, Eddie Carter.

Eddie was among a handful of original charter fishing captains as I grew up on Hilton Head Island. John informed that the two of them attended the same high school together in Savannah in the 1940s, and often spent time together fishing and hunting throughout both Georgia and South Carolina back when this area was sparsely populated.

I may have done the same, a few years after the two of them, but oh, how I remember just how amazing that period was for me.

Game was everywhere. Ducks covered every pond and fish darn near jumped in the boat. In a nutshell, this entire area was yours for the taking. No traffic, dirt roads and the only sounds were cicadas clicking in the trees. What a place!

As I continued reading John’s letter, he made suggestions on things to write about that totally took me by surprise.

Never revealing his age, I can only assume he is a tad older than me and with that said, his ideas were not what I would expect from elders from that period. Heck, having been in my teens during the ’60s, his thoughts would seem perfectly plausible from people my age — but from his generation? No way.

Before I tell you what he said and about two somewhat “new age” trends, I tried to remember instances when my father stepped out of his generational box.

Probably the most memorable happened as I walked outside the house we lived in and saw my dad on his knees staring intently at something on the ground. I watched him for a few minutes until curiosity got the best of me and I walked over to him and asked, “What on earth are you doing?” He was watching an ant colony building their home!

I could see myself doing this in a heartbeat but my dad? From that day on my respect for him grew tenfold.

Life certainly is full of surprises. With John, he told me about “Forest Bathing” and “Earthing.”

Having never heard either term, I read on as he explained each.

“Forest bathing,” or called “Shinrin-yoku” in Japanese, was made part of that country’s national health program in 1982. Basically, it’s a way to unplug from the frantic world we now live in, and the concept couldn’t be simpler.

Go into the woods (or even a park), breathe deeply and try to be at peace. By re-connecting with nature in this manner, “forest bathing” significantly reduces one’s pulse rate and dopamine levels, while increasing vigor and decreases depression, fatigue, anxiety and confusion.

Millions of dollars of research have found this way more effective than say, walking.

The second, “Earthing,” is something I do regularly, and am convinced it works but never knew it had a proper name.

Take off your shoes and feel the earth under your feet and between your toes. Think how good it feels when you are barefoot on the beach and wallow your feet in sand.

According to his description, walking with your feet directly touching the ground allows your body to absorb negative electrons through the earth, which helps stabilize your daily rhythm and create a balanced internal bioelectrical environment.

My only problem with “earthing” is I have to do it in private. After decades of stomping chum bags full of dead, squished menhaden, my feet are more like the feet on an alien, and I’m not talking about the aliens trying to cross our borders.

All I have to say is that it humbles me that John took time to actually write on paper that letter to me, a rarity these days. But even more amazing is that he obviously gets it.

Nature has always been my healer and always will be the first doctor I see. Its healing properties are being lost in this day and age but since the beginning of man’s time on earth, it has suited us well.

Thanks again, John, for making this column so darn easy.