Bathing in the blooms
Here’s me on what is becoming an annual pilgrimage to savour the flowering New South Wales waratahs (Telopea speciosissima) in Bottle Forest, part of the Royal National Park near Sydney. I was in the company of family and dozens of others on much the same mission. This pocket of waratahs attracts hundreds, probably thousands, of visitors each year.
There is nothing particularly attractive about the waratah plant. It can be ‘leggy’ and the leaves are hard and leathery. But the blooms are something else.
Each bloom is not a single flower but a cluster of flowers – a flower head or inflorescence which sits regally at the end of a longish stem.
As always, viewing these spectacular blooms left me with a visceral sense of pleasure and satisfaction. I felt uplifted and glad that I had made the pilgrimage. This was not an illusory emotional response but a physiological one triggered by the spiking in my brain of the pleasure and reward neuro-chemicals, endorphins and dopamine.
The experience led to me wanting more of the same – more floral beauty – and I was not disappointed. There were other beautiful, if less spectacular, flowers in the surrounding bushland, including Native Iris and the diminutive Caladenia (one of the ‘spider orchids’).
A springtime walk in Bottle Forest, when the waratah and other wildflowers are in bloom, encourages ‘forest bathing’, the Western term for what the Japanese call ‘shinrin yoku’. This is the practice of mindfully letting your senses take in the sights sounds, odours, tastes and feel of forests or bushland. The health and well-being benefits of forest bathing are now firmly established and ‘how to do it’ books and articles are easy to find.
But a springtime walk in Bottle Forest makes forest bathing virtually effortless. The flowers, especially the waratahs, capture and hold our attention, taking us out of ourselves and, for an uplifting and refreshing time, into the world of nature.
Even if there is no Bottle Forest near you, there may be a park or garden where you can ‘bathe’ your senses.
If you have a ‘bottle forest’ experience you would like to share (with photos as well as words) for the benefit of others, please do so by commenting on this post or by sending me a message via the website of my book, Connect with Nature.