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Curious Nature: Dive into forest bathing

Gabriella Matus
Walking Mountains Science Center
Kathy Borgen, Walking Mountains founding board member and current Emerita member, engrossed in the Forest Bathing Edventure.
Special to the Daily

Anyone else itching to explore their curious nature … somewhere else?

Like most of us, I love all that the Eagle River Valley has to offer, especially its people. However, there is nothing quite like a bit of contrast to make you appreciate what you have.

Before moving here and settling down to have a family, I had lived in three different countries and three different states in the U.S. I was always initially and continuously drawn by the place, and ultimately held by the people.

I moved from a 10-year career as an advertising executive in Manhattan to teaching the Instructor Development Course for PADI scuba diving in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. Quite the contrast in careers and locales. Also, both are very different than the Rocky Mountains and my current gig supervising the finance and human resource functions at Walking Mountains Science Center. That is my curious nature. I’m not afraid of change nor to immerse myself in new experiences, wholeheartedly.

I have settled down a bit, thanks to family and all the trappings, but I still love to travel. However, thanks to the coronavirus, I have kept awfully close to home in the past six months.

Don’t mistake me, I’m incredibly grateful for the blessing of all the wonderful open space, parks, and outdoor activities that normally I take for granted. Hiking, spending time on the river, and simply walking the open space near my home every day has taken on a whole new meaning. My friends back in New York City have not been quite so lucky. Our valley is not a bad place to be stranded.

However, I cannot quite get the yearning out of my head for the peace that scuba diving affords. The physiologic effect that the mere act of breathing through a respirator underwater has of calming and centering you. The wonder I experience observing the smallest bit of a healthy coral reef or swimming with a manta ray or pod of dolphins. The marine fauna holds endless fascination for me, and I miss that feeling, that world and those creatures.

One day this summer, when I was feeling particularly in need of some rejuvenation, I offered to go along on one of the Walking Mountains’ EdVenture Series. I was not expecting any revelations as I’d done several of these programs before. But then something clicked.

We were in Maloit Park, and amazingly after 20 years in the valley, I’d never been there before — a new experience! I was with some very lovely people, many of whom I am quite fond of, and as I mentioned people really make a difference for me.

But the clincher was that this particular EdVenture was a Forest Bathing expedition. “Forest Bathing,” you say, “what’s that?” Well, the experts say it is the practice of spending time in forested areas for the purpose of enhancing health, wellness, and happiness.

I would say it is subtle, regenerative, and transformational. And it reminds me of, you guessed it, scuba diving. It emphasizes connecting with nature, your very own as well as with the natural world around you. And here in the Eagle River Valley, I am surrounded by the opportunity to indulge in this amazing practice! One thing Forest Bathing is not is charging through the forest, up a mountain, conquering peaks, mine and so many others’ usual approach. I simply needed to shift my perspective, and voila!

So if you’re like me, as I suspect many of you are and are itching to get away and take a break from all the added stress so many of us are experiencing, try shifting your perspective. Check out forest bathing and dive in!

Gabriella Matus is the senior director of business operations at Walking Mountains Science Center. She finds much joy during this pandemic from her teen-aged boys, crazy husband, and snuggles from Louis, her Yorkshire terrier rescue.


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