Loneliness and its forest cure

This month we touch upon the growing issue of loneliness. Even though the world is more connected than ever, we find a great number of people experiencing a sense of isolation and disconnect from others. Can the forests teach us how to avoid loneliness and in difficult times, overcome it?

To find the answer, we take a journey into Canada’s Forests. Canada is the second largest country in the world. It’s forests and other wooded lands make up 40% of its 979 million hectares. Canada’s forest cover represents 10% of the entire world’s forest cover.

In Canada lives a wise professor who has been studying trees and forests for years. Her research has given us some interesting findings. Watch this short Ted Talk by Suzanne Simard to know more.

Suzanne Simard is a professor of forest ecology and teaches at the University of British Columbia. She is best known for her work on how trees communicate with other trees.

Forests are built on relationships
~Suzanne Simard

The forest cure for loneliness

The best antidote for loneliness is meaningful relationships. Which includes and begins with examining the relationship we have with ourselves.

Most people think about creating relationships with people who are like them or with people who they like, but the forests teach us that relationships are built on giving. The action of giving opens the door for receiving.

The trees in the forest feed the fungi networks with food, while the fungi supply the trees with vital nutrients which are difficult to access. As the bond deepens, the fungi are able to spread and connect to other trees forming a large network of interconnected trees. This beautiful example from nature can teach us an important lesson. The act of giving starts the process of connecting with others and bridges the way for reaching out to people who can give back to you.

Sometimes, building relationships with other people is not easy and requires a lot of effort and practice. Here’s a helpful tip. Creating a connection with plants, trees and forests is simple and can be a healing exercise. They can teach us a lot about relationships and also take away our loneliness. Once we begin to explore and learn this dance of giving and receiving we come to realise that we share a relationship with everything. Not just with other people, but also with animals, trees and nature.

With enough practise, we can become like the mother trees which give far more than they receive, especially to those in need. Sharing our personal gifts to reach out and help take away the loneliness in others.

To start off on this journey, here’s a quick recap of 4 take-aways from Suzzane Simard’s talk.

  • Go connect with the forests. Build a relationship with them.
  • Learn how they work. Learn what they have to teach.
  • Protect the forests. They can’t defend themselves from humans.
  • The forests are worth saving, because you are worth saving. Use your own links to spread the word.

Forests aren’t just a bunch of trees competing with each other, they’re super cooperators. ~ Suzanne Simard

Questions for reflection

What are we receiving and what are we giving back to the relationships in our lives?
How do we create a better relationship with ourselves and others?

And while you ponder on these questions do enjoy this beautiful video from the forests of Banff National Park in Canada. In the filmmaker’s words – “It is another one of the magical Wildlands of our planet. A place where you can truly experience the strong connection between humans and nature. It’s difficult not to be fully aware of your existence when you are walking through the Rocky Mountains of Canada. Exploring the Wildland of Banff is a life changing experience.”

Film credits:
Time-lapse Photography: Enrique Pacheco (enriquepacheco.com)
Original Score: Peter Nanasi (peternanasi.com)

END NOTE: Do add your thoughts, stories and reflections in the comment box. It will help us learn from each other.
If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to help people reconnect with nature. To know more about us and join us as a fellow volunteer visit this link.

4 Comments on “Loneliness and its forest cure

  1. When you first arrive, you begin to sense depth, and breadth of the wilderness surrounding you. The echo of certain sounds adds incredible depth. Looking down, or up your eyes see the sky, clouds, and trees.

    As day turns to night you feel and hear the veil of the night as the sounds of tree frogs, and whispering wind traverses the edge of the mountain trees opposing the wind, and almost as if you are listening to a stage coach crashing through with lost wanderers of the night as it comes around the mountain, further adding to the feeling of scale and size of the mountains around you.

    Then the morning arrives and a delayed sunrise as the mountains obscure the rise, then the friendly sound of wrens, hummingbirds, and bumblebees begins reassuring you of a place of peace and you begin to awaken your own senses again lost from day to day work day – all around you the world is made of wood, centered and aligned with gravity and the ground. The smell of pine, oak, maple, and sun-dried leaves.

    You feel a breeze again, and the rustle of leaves blowing 1000’s of leaves free in the air floating down, specifically in one area of the mountain as the sun creates convection currents and thermals that eddy the leaves into a disrupting wind.

    Then off in the distance begins the sound of a chainsaw struggling as it cuts through a tree in the early morning light and begins to nags at you like a migraine headache in all the peacefulness. Too early for such noise!

    And the thought occurs you are listening to the struggle and agonizing death of a huge tree. Not just a few minutes of struggle but huge fight for life at the beginning of few hours worth of workflow to destroy the very old tree.

    The sound persists, and you hear on a cloudless day the sound of thunder – you realize it was a grandfather tree and it is finally over and gone. It gave up its battle to sway in the breeze only to hear one huge gush of the wind one last time as it falls straight to ground with a crash. The tree has finally given up its center point of gravity and the resounding crack echoes across the valley.

    A small pause occurs after the scattering of branches hitting the ground, then endless cutting sounds of smaller saws, again and again, cutting through branches it seems forever.

    Forklifts start up, and you begin to hear shifting gears over and over, for loading of the spoils of the legacy tree. The network of branches still fighting the battle. But now the balance and network of branches are gone, remaining is the trunk sections being loaded on to huge flatbed of an 18 wheeler. Like the ones with those huge steel trusses that hold tons of wood as you pass them on the road, fearful of all wood rolling off to crush you.

    Then the sound of downshifting gears counter the downward roll of the mount pass begin, and you know it’s all over, as all stochastic resonance rolls down the mountain. No more balance or resonance, just wind in the leaves again.

    Finally, peace and silence return again, the sound of wrens, hummingbirds, and a pause in the eye of a timber jack storm. The endless shifting of the truck, on a funeral pavane of the 18 wheeler as it descends – into the abyss of the valley below – 100’s of years of roots reaching out, wrens, hummingbirds, tree frogs, and cold winter storms, gone forever.

    — Stephen T. Shipley
    at Blue Ridge, Alpine Inn, NC


  2. Tree

    Every tree can feel,
    it can see,
    how are people,
    how are we,
    it has memory,
    but it forgives,
    I hope eternaly it lives.


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