Sometimes “Buongiorno!” in the forest supports mental health

By Scott Hardin-Hieri

We drove to the forest early one morning this week.  Walking or running in the forest is a practice that supports my physical, spiritual, and mental health. My dog, Cosmo, tasted the cold air greeting him through the open windows and I listened to the news in the car for the first time in many days. That day, like a week prior, it was mostly bad news. Some about war, elections and the impacts of climate change.  I often try to regularly face suffering with honesty and truth, but only in sips between generous helpings of gratitude and curiosity. I guess I was out of practice dancing with the shadows and light- with grief and gratitude.

My heart was heavy as I stepped out of the car.  With reluctance I followed Cosmo deeper into the forest, my old bones and trail shoes reacquainting themselves with the ancient wrinkles of the Appalachian mountains. The familiar route in the woods looked different today after being away for a time; the Oaks, Poplars, Sourwood, and Pines declared a newness that I had not seen in about a year.

Eventually, my spirit lifted a bit as the sun peeked through the leaves. I had spent a week in a place where I was limited by my inability to communicate in the native language of Italian, and yet in the forest, I thought out loud “Buongiorno!”

Good morning-amidst bad news-good morning.

The response was in a native language my eyes and heart recognized but was not heard.

“Welcome home” was the whisper returned to me in the leaves quietly offering their emerald, crimson, cinnamon, and canary gifts in both the darkness and sunrise.  “Welcome Home”

You can find resources about climate and mental health here.

And resources regarding faith and climate change here.

Rev. Scott Hardin-Nieri

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