In a European perspective, a place like the Valdivian Temperate Rainforest is overwhelming. It is difficult to find suitable words. During the training that took place in the first week of November at Oncol Park, I was able to personally visit it and experience a place from another time. Of what little remains of a distant past.
To enter the small passages that travel Oncol, is to cross a threshold. Moisture sneaks everywhere. A dripping and icy universe that seems motionless in time. The vibrant colors of the the southern spring burst everywhere. The floor is covered by an organic carpet of decaying matter, which buffers the sounds until they become small crunches while walking.
The leaves of the cinnamon, the sacred tree of the Mapuches, have a mild acid smell when they are green. It is easy to find its smell while walking between the narrow paths. When they die, the smell becomes stronger. A smell of intense and fragrant pepper. Odors unknown to urban smell.
The sounds, mostly unknown, merge into the untidy vegetation. Everything I hear, without exception, is new and strange. With the passing of days, and thanks to the participants, I start recognizing them. Above all, the Chucao. Its unpredictable song springs hidden through the curtain of trees and ferns.
All trainings are always in places where nature is the protagonist. We always look for a place to be amazed. It is like a journey. Forward, and slightly backward. Return to simplicity, and indeed (why not say it) to the wild. Tamed maybe, but wild.
It is interesting to learn to manage all the sensations that emerge during a walk through a place so overwhelming for the senses. The connection occurs on many levels, and above all, in a very different way for each one of the participants. From the magnificent desolation of the Atacama desert, to the icy lands of the south, Chile is a country of enormous contrasts. Being able to know a piece of that richness is something unique.
Curiously, the most intense moment in terms of sensations, not only mine, but of the whole group, was during the forest bathing experience which was not in a forest. A deserted beach, of dark sand, surrounded by rolling hills full of all the shades of green that my retina can assimilate. Pilolcura, the ear of stone. The wind, the sand, the small wooden houses overlooking the infinite ocean. As a personal note, I was surprised that the Pacific Ocean did not honor its name. I imagined some calm and soft banks, and the reality is that the waves were firmly breaking on the rocks.
Never a week has passed so fast for me. The southern night sky, empirically checking the effect of coriolis, enjoy the wonderful Chilean cuisine. Merken, cochayuyo, cachai, Po … new words, new experiences, new sensations.
It is always good to return home. To remember and to assimilate what has been lived. I am left with the sensation of learning and surprise before all the wonders that I have been able to see during the training. To observe the evolution of the participants and how from the self, one passes to the collective. A group that shares, lives and breathes together. It is never easy to face a training. The strict schedules, the theoretical sessions, the talks. It’s easy to forget the environment around you in the maelstrom that is the first face-to-face part of the certification.
However, there are also the coffee talks, the conversations by the fire, the breaks between classes. All the people who attended, brought with them all their experiences, their doubts and above all their desire to learn and begin to explore the possibilities and ways in which forest bathing can be a restorative and wellness experience.
Meanwhile, and from home, the Valdivian rainforest remains in my memory. One more training, and a new group of guides that joins the FTI. The road continues to emerge at every step we take, in unexpected and always constructive ways.
* By Paco García. Certified Forest Bathing Guide and Forest Therapy Practitioner by Forest Therapy Institute.
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