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Forest Bathing in Central Park

Any day is good for a walk in nature known as Shinrin-yoku, also called "forest bathing," but on Friday in New York City, the opportunity was particularly welcome. In the morning, the subway system went awry after a ConEd power loss inside a station at Seventh Avenue at W. 53rd Street (NY1 story), leading to massive frustration with the city’s mass transit system. Trains were delayed, and some lines were cancelled for a time. There was a lot of drama underground.

Cedar Hill in Central Park

Above ground, the spring temperatures were mild. The day was overcast, with intermittent drizzle, and the tops of tall buildings were enshrouded in fog. It was a good day for museum visiting, though the drizzly conditions closed the Rooftop of the Met. It was an excellent day for a walk in Central Park, especially as many of the trains weren’t going anywhere and the flowering trees were in bloom.

Cedar Hill with a tree in bloom

A walk from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the east side of the park to the American Museum of Natural History on the west side can be particularly good for a restorative walk. Followers of the Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku claim that a walk deep in nature can bolster an overall sense of wellness. While walking itself has been shown to produce many health benefits, a walk in nature increases the flow of positive energies. Surrounded by the youthful greens and blooms of trees in springtime, a walk even in Central Park can restore a sense of personal balance.

A path near Turtle Pond

I know some of you may be sneezing just looking at these images. True, enough. Last spring, I went forest bathing in Inwood Hill Park around this time, and I ended up sneezing myself into a sinus infection that lasted more than three weeks. I attribute my illness last spring to picking a handful of wildflowers that I should have left well enough alone and then bringing them home to put in a pretty vase on the dining room table. I also have a cat. The only advice I can offer is to know how allergies may affect you personally and to never cut wildflowers and take them home for your personal enjoyment.

View from Belvedere Castle, Central Park

Back to Central Park, the recent rains have provided sustenance for the trees, lawns, and the birds flitting about. This season, the park has set aside Cedar Hill near the Met to recover from past trampling. The area is deeply green. Also this season, much of the Ramble is undergoing restoration, so wanderers here need to look out for unexpected turns. Getting lost in the Ramble is half the fun, and surrendering to the flow and the moment would fit perfectly with the spirit of Shinrin-yoku.         

Belvedere Castle in spring

This walk winds its way up to the Victorian folly known as Belvedere Castle. The castle provides a good vantage point for Turtle Pond below and the Delacorte Theater, home to Shakespeare in the Park. Yesterday, workers were busy constructing the stage, so it felt like the summer season was truly around the corner. The walk also takes in the scenic areas near the Ramble and the Lake in the western section. Look for the restored boat landing.

Deep forest bathing near the Ramble


Restored lake boat landing in Central Park

As a museum-to-museum walk, the distance is about one mile, not to be confused with the Museum Mile on Fifth Avenue. The walk ends at the American Museum of Natural History, a fitting end for a nature walk. 

View from Central Park West

In full bloom at the American Museum of Natural History

Heading home, the subways had only started to catch up after daylong delays. The cars were still typically crowded at rush hour. Several people on the train were talking about the subway mess that day. Arriving at our station, a woman turned to her fellow commuters and said, “After today, we can all go home and have a drink.” She paused, catching herself with this intemperate suggestion, and added, “Or tea.”



Happy Earth Day.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from April 21, 2017.

Read more about Shinrin-Yoku on the website New York Spirit.

For more about the restored Lake Boat Landings in Central Park, see the Central Park website.

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