Finding wellness in the woods
When I moved from the Arizona desert to the woods of western Massachusetts in pursuit of a Ph.D., the change in scenery was initially overwhelming. As I walked home that first evening through my forested neighborhood, I couldn’t help but picture countless horror movie scenarios. The vast trees and darkness felt suffocating. Soon afterward, classes began, and I dove headfirst into my research. As the lab became my primary home, my wooded neighborhood became a forgotten part of the scenery.
With the onset of the pandemic, I suddenly found myself in my house, staring out each morning into the trees. The drastic shift to Zoom meetings, presidential press conferences, family emergencies and sheer confusion created a mental health crisis that felt both global and personal. I found comfort in the simple scenery beyond my window, and I eventually ventured out.
What began as an avoidance of cabin fever quickly evolved — from brief jaunts during lunch breaks to longer weekend adventures on more distant trails. The vast network of paths running right behind my own home astonished me. I often got lost that summer, and somehow getting lost was the best part of the journey.
I wouldn’t consider myself a particularly avid hiker, and I certainly couldn’t keep up on an extended backpacking trip. Even so, I continue to find solace in the backyard woods of my own neighborhood. Whether I’ve had a long week at the lab bench or cooped up at a desk, the lure of the woods invites exploration.
My slow, rhythmic walking pace may not win any medals for speed, but it is an act of meditative awareness. This is far more effective for me than any guided meditation, as I allow my mind to wander with my feet. And when I allow myself to get too lost, at least I know I’m never too far from home.
Enjoy reading ASBMB Today?
Become a member to receive the print edition monthly and the digital edition weekly.Learn more
Get the latest from ASBMB Today
Enter your email address, and we’ll send you a weekly email with recent articles, interviews and more.
Latest in Opinions
Opinions highlights or most popular articles
Making your résumé stand out (or at least be seen)
Tips for making it through applicant-tracking systems that scan applications for keywords.
Must a female scientist be ambitious?
“We need to accept that women may have motivations beyond achievements in the workplace and that career achievements may be secondary to work–life integration,” Marina K. Holz writes.
19 tips for giving an effective talk
“During my time in graduate school, I’ve learned many lessons about how to give an effective talk — often by giving an ineffective talk and receiving much-needed feedback,” Adriana Norris writes.
A time for reflection — and data
“Some researchers suggest the pandemic has served as the proverbial canary in the coal mine, highlighting and amplifying existing disparities and inequities within the STEMM workplace.”
How far we've come
A special event at Discover BMB will look back on the remarkable discoveries of Ed Krebs and Eddy Fischer, whose impact was legion long before they won a 1992 Nobel Prize.
Bumpus leads with science
Namandjé Bumpus recently stepped away from her lab at Johns Hopkins to become the chief scientist of the FDA.