“I owe it to these forests…I know they are what saved me.”

By Crystal C.

My love for nature started when I was 4. My dad took me camping and fishing several times a year. He would tell me to close my eyes, listen, and slow down. I would roll my eyes and say ?whatever.? I love thinking back to all those happy moments. Now as a mother, I try to make sure I pass down to my kids what my dad taught me about nature and how important it is. Of course they roll their eyes at me (fair enough), but I know they are listening.

My deep connection with the forest started when I went through a divorce. Life as I knew it changed and I wasn’t taking it well. I became sad beyond belief. I was told I would feel better if I took medication and it did make it better, but I was numb like a zombie. One day I took a walk and sat under some trees and just breathed. I slowed down (like my dad always said) and closed my eyes and just listened. Big deal, right? For me it was, because being under those trees and hearing those beautiful sounds was euphoric.

Now I go a couple times a week and walk in one of the state forests, Yellowwood or Morgan-Monroe. I?ll hike somewhere and sit under some trees and meditate, thinking of how far I?ve come since that first time 10 years ago. I have not been on medication for 10 years and I owe it to these forests and all the trees. I know they are what saved me.

Crystal & friend backpacking in Morgan-Monroe State Forest.

I work as an Emergency Medical Technician on an ambulance, so as you can imagine it can get crazy. I deal with death and violence and heartbreak almost everyday. What do you do with all that? You surely can?t carry it with you. In this crazy chaotic world, I have a sanctuary in these trees where none of those things exist, even if it’s for only 30 minutes.

Have you ever heard of ?earthing?? You take your shoes off and stand on dirt or grass to let the energy of the earth heal you. I have been practicing this for a long time. It is actually scientifically proven that this works, so why aren?t we taught to practice it? Sitting under the trees and listening, I can feel the healing energy.

It’s hard to put into words how I feel when I?m in the forest. One of my favorite forest memories was a time when I watched the sunset and listened to the owls. The moon was full so it lit the outline of trees and the fireflies looked like glitter everywhere. The wind was blowing and you could hear the leaves rustling. It was like a nature concert and it was a magical moment. It made me sad to think that one day those trees would be gone, and if the trees are gone the animals will leave as well.

I?ve noticed trees are being cut down at a high rate of speed in the forest I go to most often, Morgan-Monroe. I walked a fire trail that I used to frequent but hadn?t visited in two months due to weather and I had to look around because I thought I wasn’t in the right place. The trail was barely visible due to recent logging. The logs were laying everywhere, wood shavings covered the ground, and there were huge ruts from the heavy equipment.

I cried as it really hit me that they left my sanctuary looking like a war zone. I went to Yellowwood State Forest and found the same destruction. I sent e-mails and a letter to the Governor but only received a generic response. So many people care about and need these trees. Why would the government not care about that?

I think starting a youth group for kids who are having mental health issues would be a great idea, so that they can be taught the healing effects of nature. We can use the forest as a teaching resource. It?s important to keep fighting for the trees. They need us and we need them.