The esoteric feeling at the heart of forest conservation.




In our work to protect and conserve forests around Cumberland, arguments are presented about water quality, species at risk, and habitat protection. And these arguments are important, but the beating heart of forest protection is Forest Flow.

When you’re moving through the forest, there’s buoyancy to your motion—jubilation—whether you’re running, biking, walking, or carrying a sleeping babe on your back. It makes no difference if it’s raining, sunny, or something in between. The living presence of the forest itself sustains you, and keeps your thoughts and impressions flowing.

You may float through the forest like a yogi in an absorbent sphere of mindfulness, or as an angry lover in the grip of a sour mood that releases as you walk. Perhaps you’re a parent seeking respite from family responsibilities, or a child seeing the forest with open-eyed wonder; Forest Flow is always in the background, present and persistent.

Forest Flow has two faces, one playful and one contemplative: the mud-flecked grin of someone high on mountain biking and the quiet composure of someone with a camera, seeking images of the strange and colourful fungi that populate the forest.

Science is probing the way forests bolster the people who flow through them. The growing field of eco-psychology is starting to understand the effect that forests have on those who visit them. Science tells us that we are pattern-seeking creatures and that we look for these patterns in nature to help us understand it. Maybe Forest Flow lives in some deep circuit of our brains, activated by the living patterns in the forest.

But neither eco-psychology nor any other science will ever master the flow itself and technology will never replace it. It takes an organic mind to experience Forest Flow.

We stumble on natural cathedrals everywhere when Forest Flow is upon us. It slows the conveyor belt of thoughts that accompany us through our days. One moment you look up and around, pause, and realize that you’re almost worshipping without realizing it.

A whole community can embrace Forest Flow. In Cumberland, the forest is the backdrop to village life. The streets and sidewalks join onto the trails that take us through the forest. One flows into the other and you’re as likely to bump into a friend or neighbour on a forest trail as you are to see them in town.

People come from all over the Comox Valley to visit the Cumberland forests. Like blood cells picking up oxygen in the lungs, they flow through the trails on foot and on bikes. And when they leave, they take something vital with them back to their homes and workplaces.

Every visit to the forest ends at some point and every experience with Forest Flow comes to a halt. When we leave the forest we bring something valuable back to the conservation table. Forest Flow gives us a renewed sense of purpose when we return to the planning, discussions, maps, and spreadsheets. Without Forest Flow, it’s just a stack of papers.