Portland Press Herald reporter Deirdre Fleming, shown with her dog, Bingo, first went on a forest bathing walk five years ago. She’s not surprised the practice has become more common in Maine. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

BUXTON — When forest bathing emerged in Maine five years ago, I did a story on how this form of eastern medicine is believed to improve focus, optimism, even our immune system.

Honestly? Before I went on a forest bathing walk, I considered the modern iteration of this ancient practice an over-marketed trend, and most likely a waste of my time.

As one who has spent 25 years going deep into the Maine woods – be it to hike, ski, mountain bike or, more recently, to hunt – I already knew the forest inspired reflection and hope. It’s a place to go find answers, even when there don’t seem any answers to find.

But I was dead wrong. Forest bathing is something more.

After that forest therapy guide led me on a two-hour walk, I felt changed. I recalled memories I had forgotten, like how a certain tree I climbed as a kid gave my imagination and spirit a leg-up. It was as if the guide brought me to a foreign land and taught me to speak the language of the Indigenous people, and that conversation made me wiser.

So two years ago when my husband and I bought a house in the woods of Buxton, I very enthusiastically found myself living in an overgrown, old forest. The property lacks any shred of landscaping, but is home to several granddaddy pine trees that look much like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ents in “Lord of the Rings.” At once they became trusted friends.

Now when they groan while swaying in the wind, or hold still like silent sentries, I stand beside them and stop, listen and wait for the insight they will impart.


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