Mission executive in charge of wildlife integration into forest management at National Forest Office.
The crisis we are going through, with certain restrictive rules, has amplified the need for freedom. Nature in general offers wide open spaces in which everyone can satisfy their desire for freedom. Indeed, a simple walk in the forest, by the sea, or a long walk in the mountains allows one to travel through diverse landscapes, in which we find ourselves face to face, with our own physical or intellectual condition as limits. It is no longer rules that hinder our movement, but our own limits. We are no longer forced to play a role, as society usually imposes on us. No need to wear a mask in the middle of nature. So I think that this search for truth, for sincerity in each of us, invites us to turn to nature, for these reasons. Moreover, in the forest or in the mountains, the rhythm changes. We are no longer in the infernal rhythm of the famous "Metro, Work, Sleep", and it becomes possible to settle into a natural rhythm, a rhythm that we have gradually moved away from in the city, a rhythm based on the seasons and the weather. Even if we are sometimes intellectually distant from these natural rhythms, our bodies, our minds, are inevitably influenced by these natural rhythms.
Many walkers and users of natural areas go to the open air as they can consume other accessible goods. So, encounters become difficult. It is necessary to provoke it, but this implies respecting it and taking your time. It is therefore necessary to go out prepared, with the right equipment of course, but also after having planned a minimum of your activity on a map. Modern tools are a great help when you are afraid of getting lost, but it seems to me more important to allow yourself time to progress slowly, by observing natural reference points, here a summit, there a characteristic tree. This develops skills and competences that allow us to pay more attention to what is around us. Sometimes even allowing yourself time to get a little lost only enriches these skills. Some friends from the city sometimes ask me how to go to the forest without getting lost, and without risk. The forest is not risky, nature in general is not risky, at least not more than the city. But it has its own rules, which require patience and calm. For people who are afraid of getting lost, one solution is to plan the day for a 3 to 4 hour walk. And if you get lost, you will have time to return, following your map and its natural landmarks, why not according to the sun (to identify the direction you are taking). And if your anxiety gradually increases, then get out your modern tools, which will guide you back to your starting point. Then, with patience, you can provoke an encounter with the nature that surrounds you, and a constant attention. Personally, this learning process took me a long time. Having grown up in a small town in the Eure-et-Loir, I did not have the prerequisites to know how to connect with nature. But through patience and perseverance, and also by accepting that some excursions are "silent", I developed a greater attention to my environment. Gradually, I had the impression of being better and better connected to what was around me, and with myself. And in contact with this precious nature, I felt grounded in my life.
For me the forest is essential. I need trees to feel good, as if filled with an energy from the earth that gives me a feeling of fullness. Why this feeling, which many people experience in the forest? There is an exceptional biodiversity, with insects, birds, mushrooms, many organisms that are only found there. Despite the apparent calm, the forest is the scene of intense activity. Many organisms feed on wood or leaves. This is the case with caterpillars, which are numerous in the forest (sometimes close to a million per hectare) and which are fond of oak leaves. So the trees defend themselves and produce molecules that make the leaves indigestible. But they also make other informative molecules that are dispersed in the air, a procession of alkaloids, alpha-pinenes, terpenes, essential oils and many others, which form what are called phytoncids. We pick up these molecules when we go for a walk. They have the particularity of stimulating our immune system, which then produces NK lymphocytes, the killer cells that defend us against viruses and other harmful bacteria. In addition, the trees set up a healing system for damaged tissue, using small electrical impulses. The negative ions produced in this way also disperse and reduce our levels of cortisol, the chronic stress hormone, thus lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. Trees produce the oxygen we breathe, which we need. Then, when manufacturing the molecules that enable its growth, the tree pumps a lot of water into the soil, but releases a good part of it through the leaves, resulting in a more humid atmosphere than elsewhere in our landscape, especially on hot summer days. We can therefore agree that the forest and contact with trees are an inexhaustible source of well-being.