If You Go Down In The Woods Today…

You’ll probably see my wife bathing.

Robert Cormack
The Haven

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Image by nahid hatamiz from Pixabay

If you tell a joke in the forest, but nobody laughs, was it still a joke?” Steve Wright

Country living can get weird sometimes. I realized this the other day when I caught my wife going out the door in her yoga outfit, carrying a luffa sponge and a towel over her shoulder. She said she was heading over to the park to take a bath. To my knowledge, there wasn’t anywhere to bathe in the park—not legally, anyway.

She seemed determined, though, so I asked, “What sort of bath, honey?”

You should know something about my wife. She loves specifics. If she can explain the difference between two fleas, she’ll do it.

Anyway, it seems she read somewhere about “forest bathing,” a Japanese practice of self-relaxation known as shinrin yoku.

“You’re supposed to sit quietly amongst the trees, observing nature whilst deep breathing,” she said, practically reciting the Wikipedia definition. “It de-stresses you,” she added.

Luffas (or loofahs) are meant to remove dead skin, which didn’t seem to match the intent of shinrin yoku.

“And the luffa, honey?” I asked. “Isn’t that taking the bathing part a bit too far?” Luffas (or loofahs) are meant to remove dead skin, which didn’t seem to match the intent of shinrin yoku.

“This old thing?” she said, which was true. Neither of us has used the luffa in years. It’s hung in our shower looking more like a dried out piece of birch bark — which isn’t far from what a luffa is, by the way.

“I need it to swat ticks,” she said. “They carry disease.”

Stay with me on this one. My wife always has a good reason for everything, even if her reasoning does leave most people scratching their heads. She thinks they all have ticks.

“I didn’t want to take the flyswatter,” she said, “because — well, I couldn’t find it, for one thing — and I’d look ridiculous bathing in the forest holding a flyswatter, now, wouldn’t I?”

You have to hand it to Winona. Just when you think she can’t possibly have a logical explanation, she finds one, anyway. In this case, she does actually have a point. “Forest bathing,” or shinrin yoku, is a completely natural form relaxation. Showing up with a flyswatter is probably just as disingenuous as having a ghetto blaster on your shoulder.

And while a luffa is less disingenuous than a flyswatter or ghetto blaster, I’m pretty sure you can’t kill a mite with it.

Not that Winona is listening to me at this point. Once she’s decided on a weapon of choice, there’s no changing her mind.

“I’m off,” she says, luffa under her arm, looking like a big game hunter charging into the untamed wilderness.

I’ve never watched someone take a “forest bath” before, let alone my wife whose idea of roughing it is using cheap bath salts.

I wait the usual ten minutes, then follow at a safe distance. I’ve never watched someone take a “forest bath” before, let alone my wife whose idea of roughing it is using cheap bath salts.

I expect to find her in a deep state of bliss, mouthing some Japanese chakra. Instead, she’s there on a park bench with her feet tucked under her. I guess it’s a yoga position of sorts, but the nearest tree is forty yards away.

“Don’t you have to actually be under the trees?” I ask, while she swings the luffa wildly at any flying thing.

“Bugs kept falling on me,” she replies. “How am I supposed to de-stress with that going on? Why are they picking on me?”

“I don’t think they’re necessarily picking on you, honey,” I say.

“Oh, they are,” she says, taking a big swing at something. “What’re you following me for?”

“Just making sure you’re okay.”

“I’m trying to find Nirvana.”

“They disbanded. The singer shot himself.”

“And they called themselves Nirvana?”

“Some names come back to bite you in the ass.”

“Help me up,” she says. “My legs are asleep.”

I take her under the arms and lift her to a standing position. She’s still swinging wildly with the luffa. I coax her down the trail and across the lawn. At one of the garbage bins, she tosses the luffa into it.

“So much for forest bathing,” she says.

Nothing about bug-bombing specifically, but a few “forest bathers” did mention “itchy-scratchy things disturbing their tranquility.”

Back at the house, I make her chai tea, and she assumes her cross-legged position in her favourite chair. “I can’t be the only one getting bug-bombed,” she says, looking it up on her phone. Nothing about bug-bombing specifically, but a few “forest bathers” did mention “itchy-scratchy things disturbing their tranquility.”

“I know, right?” she punches in, joining a conversation of “forest bathers,” none of whom are actually in Canada — or sane, for that matter.

Winona finally gets a response from a German living somewhere in the Black Forest. He claims he’s been there for years “forest bathing his brains out.” He lives in a deserted bunker, surviving mostly on sauerkraut and lychee nuts.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been bug-bombed,” he responds to Winona’s question. “Have you tried rolling around in tree sap?”

Wrong thing to say to my wife. She has no intention of rolling around in anything other than her down-filled comforter.

She signs off with a sad emoji.

“How am I supposed to de-stress now?” she asks me.

“Maybe we put up tree wallpaper,” I say.

She thinks about it for a moment.

“We’d have to get new lamps,” she says. “These ones won’t go with green.”

I leave her pondering other avenues of wellness, starting with a question on Reddit’s Ask Women: “How do you find Nirvana?”

“Give me Smashing Pumpkins,” one woman relied.

Someone’s saying she knows just what my wife’s going through. “I bathe in udon noodles,” she says.

Winona decides on a hot bath. She takes her phone with her. As she’s running the tub, a response comes in. Someone’s saying she knows just what my wife’s going through. “I bathe in udon noodles,” she says.

“I’m not bathing in udon noodles,” Winona replies, flopping around, water probably going over the sides. I’ll bet she’s looking it up on her phone, just the same. It could be her Nirvana. Not that I’m crazy about the idea. The thought of Winona and udon noodles together in one tub is too much for me. Then again, it would make dinner easier, wouldn’t it?

Now I’m hungry.

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Robert Cormack
The Haven

I did a poor imitation of Don Draper for 40 years before writing my first novel. I'm currently in the final stages of a children's book. Lucky me.