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Opinion: Forest bathing in Squamish, while we still can

All we can do is pray for a more humane world. And seek moments of solace in our forests.
Alex RatsonForest bathingSquamish
Enjoying the Squamish forest is an important part of why many of us moved here, and it is under threat, says local Melody Wales.

In Japan, it’s called forest bathing.

So easy to do in Squamish.

There are many trails, and one can still walk under green arches — along paths where leafy tendrils entangle moss-covered trees, and young sprouts shoot out from shawls of ancient old growth reaching far into the sky. Shafts of light filter through a canopy of leaves.  

And, there are still murky ponds, estuaries, swift-running rivers, and overgrown dirt paths to wander and scramble over twigs and overturned crumbling logs.

Trees whisper to one another and sway and swirl like an Emily Carr painting. The air is cool and fresh, and one can almost drink it.

These diminishing forest enclaves are retreats from the drills and saws and the destruction of construction.

The banging and clamouring of so-called progress for just a few blocks away continues.  

My heart breaks every time I pass a piece of greenery and then see another huge sign, “Redevelopment proposal.”

I think of the Joni Mitchell song, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot (condo).”

Trees are the lungs of the earth. They suck up gases and give us oxygen.

The developers have taken over Squamish. Deforestation is an affront to the senses.

For we, in development, have stolen the homes of wildlife. Bears may hibernate and, awakening from slumber, find their world supplanted by buildings — no berries to eat, fruit trees gone, signs up: “Don’t feed the bears.”  

And, if they seek food from us, they are killed.

What if it were the other way around? The bears don’t bother us if we don’t bother them. They hide until hunger urges them out.

In their quest for tax revenue, do municipalities consider the possible devastating effects on the habitats of creatures large and small or on our mental health and well-being?

Forests soothe the soul.

We, in Squamish, can still count our blessings. Some woodlands remain. Blue skies, fluffy white clouds. The fresh smell of green. Even on rainy days, nature is there for us to enjoy and explore. But, we must be vigilant and protect the last remaining remnants of greenery.

It’s hard to envision what is happening in other parts of the world.  

Inconceivable if it wasn’t true that one man has the power to order the dropping of bombs onto another country and is obeyed. People’s homes are blasted to rubble.

How can this happen? What we are doing to bears, one man is doing to countries.

As we feel powerless to stop the bulldozing of our forests, the world sits by as President Vladimir Putin bombards Ukraine.

All we can do is pray for a more humane world. And seek moments of solace in our forests.

Squamish’s Melody Wales graduated from Ryerson University and has worked as a columnist for various publications.

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