In the bush

October 26, 2022

Five years ago this fall I took a buyout from the newspaper where I had worked for a long time. I took the plunge and enrolled full-time in the Master of Forest Conservation at the University of Toronto. The move resembled to some extent a leap off a cliff. Through massive support from my partner and our children, and from my classmates, I pulled it off.

This path I now walk has been full of potholes, twists, turns, and bad weather. I succeed. I fail. I struggle. Ironically, the toughest thing about forestry for me is information technology. I have struggled with Geographic Information Systems, learning management software, Contentful, Mailchimp, Excel… you name it. It’s a challenge.

That said, some days it’s a breeze. A client took this photo of me in Prince Edward County, late October. The client has 100 acres of forest and we went for a walk with the couple, their three children (one of whom is six months old) and our two dogs (from l. to r., Coco and Rook). In fall the bugs are gone. We strolled through a 10-acre white pine forest, planted nearly 40 years ago, and overdue to be thinned. This forest, which we will thin this fall and winter, will become part of a trail network through their property.

I taught the kids how to identify a red oak (points on the lobe ends). The couple had to carry the stroller through tall grass; eventually the baby went in one of those carriers you strap to yourself, and seemed as happy as any of us.

Just breathing the scent of the white pine, we noticed, made us all happy. Research in Japan shows that exposure to phytoncides, the natural oils that trees emit to protect them from harm, “decreased the scores for tension/anxiety, anger/hostility, and fatigue/confusion.”

If you need a break, I recommend a walk in the forest. Photo below depicts a little red oak coming up in the rich organic matter formed by needles that fell from the planted white pines.