Yesterday was a brisk and brilliant October day, so J and I walked from our house to Hemlock Gorge and back. Nestled along the Charles River near the junction of Routes 9 and 128, Hemlock Gorge is a hidden jewel that offers a pocket of wildness is an otherwise suburban setting. I drive past Hemlock Gorge five days a week on my way to teach, so it’s a delight to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon walking there, soaking in the golden light of autumn.
Shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” is a Japanese term for the restorative practice of spending time in nature. We’ve reached the point of the semester where my students are submitting essay drafts faster than I can grade them, so I welcome any excuse to step away from my paper-piles and into the woods, even for a short time. An afternoon walk along a river fringed with trees is therapeutic, the natural world going about its business in blithe disregard of human tasks and to-do lists. For the brief time you’re outside, walking, the obligations awaiting you at home don’t exist, and all that matters is the whisper of wind through the trees and the dapple of sunlight on water.