Honor’s Cindra Moore is leading a new generation of land stewards in Northern Michigan and teaching us the benefits of forest bathing.

Cindra Moore and I talk and walk along the edge of where farm and forest meet; land her great-great-grand-father homesteaded in the 1860s. This picture book-beautiful spot is off one of the oldest roads in Benzie County, up the hill from the Platte River in Honor.

“I ‘bought the farm’ 21 years ago and reinvented myself … something I find a lot of folks are doing,” says Cindra.

Cindra retired from professional gardening, began to grow her own food and licensed the farm as a learning center to teach others. She was asked to create a course for the Interlochen Arts Academy for their survival and sustainability class. “I found I love teaching,” she says. “I was a former master gardener and a backcountry ranger, among a few other life experiences. What does a person do who has a lifetime of knowledge? They become teachers, if they are lucky enough.”

We pause a moment by the bright red milk barn built by her ancestor. Shielding the sun from her eyes, Cindra points out the giant maples at the edge of the woods. All of the leaves are flipped over, showing their more matte, silvery undersides. A sign of rain on the way, she says. (Sure enough, though a bluebird day at the moment, that night a heavy rainstorm comes.)

A modern theme of disconnect between human beings and their natural surroundings led to one key refrain in her teaching, that we “are not separate from nature, we are nature.”

An intentional shift in attention to the natural world is something Cindra herself experienced herself early in life. She was 13 when she went to live with her Anishinaabeg grandmother and great-grandmother. “They gave me a little taste of what they knew, and of their native spirituality. They instilled a deep reverence for the natural world and how to speak from the heart.”

Recently, Cindra developed a five-day nature guide course to teach people to become leaders in the practice of shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing.” Forest bathing as a concept was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.

Her course name, Walk in Beauty, comes from an Ojibwa saying and means to walk gently on the earth. Taking a forest bath or a “medicine walk” is not exercising or hiking, says Cindra: “It is simply being one with nature. We stay aware of our natural pace and our surroundings.”

Forest bathing is healing and bolsters a personal sense of wellbeing and self-esteem, explains Cindra. “Belonging to something larger than the self promotes healthy behaviors, reduces stress and helps people be mindful of their surroundings.” If it feels awkward at first, don’t give up. “Commit to trying it five times,” she says, “and watch what happens.”

With her course, Cindra hopes to inspire a new generation of leaders to teach others to slow down and to adopt the pace of nature. To be in the woods and feel as at home there as anywhere. Ultimately these leaders will become ambassadors for others to connect in a meaningful way to the natural beauty around them. After all, she says, “You’ll never take care of anything, unless you love it.”

Apply to take Cindra’s Walk in Beauty course at windsongcenter.net. Her ancestral homestead currently is awaiting its next steward, and Cindra will continue her path in teaching from other points north.

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner