Health and Wildness

“In wildness is the preservation of the world,” wrote Henry David Thoreau. Now, physicians and scientists are suggesting that wildness may be the preservation of good health as well



Editor Rick Broussard

Photo by John Hession

Our claim to Thoreau here in New Hampshire isn’t very substantial. While his famous seclusion at Walden Pond may have echoes in the people who move to the Granite State to “get away from it all,” our primary connections to the naturalist are that his mother grew up in Keene, and he based his first book on a trip that traced the Merrimack River to its source in the foothills of Mt. Washington.

On the other hand, our claim to “wildness” is quite strong. We lead the nation (right after Maine) in the percentage of our state that is “tree-covered,” the top third of our state has a population that hovers around one to 25 people per square mile, and then there’s that berserker of a state motto that we’re always so proud to quote.

 A story we ran a few months ago about a health trend called “forest bathing”  stirred up a lot of affirmative comments. Somehow we instinctively know that our own nature is revived when we expose it to real nature, and real nature, by definition, is wild. Science seems to concur, even if you’re going outside without seeking to get fit. Forest bathing, for instance, involves merely hanging around with trees in their natural state, not hiking through them. Studies at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo suggest that simply breathing air rich with the oils and ions of a natural forest can enhance the immune system for a month or more.

Maybe such wildness accounts for the fact that we can be one of the very healthiest states in the country and simultaneously be a “drug-infested den” of opioid abuse, as was so inelegantly noted by President Trump.

In this issue, we quote an expert on mindfulness on how to be more attentive and centered. One technique he recommends is simply to walk barefoot in your own backyard. That’s one way to discover how much wildness exists even in our groomed spaces.

Speaking of wild, an angry letter sent by a woman from Alabama to the editor of  the New Hampshire Union Leader back in June drove a number of locals pretty wild.

“The trails in the White Mountains are a disgrace,” wrote Mary Altz-Smith, who said she and her husband are “veteran backpackers with 40 years of hiking experience.”

“You have to negotiate boulders and, basically, hike rocky stream beds to gain the most meager vistas and distance. These trails are dangerous and limit safe use to only athletes,” she wrote, recommending that boulders be “reduced to proper steps.” The letter was loudly mocked, but according to a response by David Brooks in the Concord Monitor, she had a point. Trails laid out west tended to have horse travel in mind and were graded accordingly. Our hiking trails are generally quite old.  “Most famously,” wrote Brooks, “the Crawford Path on Mount Washington, first cut in 1819 for tourists, is often called the country’s oldest hiking trail in continuous use.” Standards change over time.

Here’s more of that essay from Thoreau:

Every tree sends its fibers forth in search of the Wild. The cities import it at any price. Men plow and sail for it. From the forest and wilderness come the tonics and barks which brace mankind. Our ancestors were savages. The story of Romulus and Remus being suckled by a wolf is not a meaningless fable. The founders of every state which has risen to eminence have drawn their nourishment and vigor from a similar wild source. It was because the children of the Empire were not suckled by the wolf that they were conquered and displaced by the children of the northern forests who were.”

Stay wild, New Hampshire.

More edit notes from editor Rick Broussard

Poetry in Motion

The Poetry Society of NH is seeking a new poet laureate for the state. While it’s possible you don’t know the name of the current one, this might be the most important nonpolitical office we have.

Busting Out

Our Best of NH Party happens June 14 and you should attend. If not for yourself, then for the good of the Granite State and, in evolutionary terms, for the good of humanity. Allow me to explain.

A Dame to Remember

A walk through the NH Statehouse is a good way to absorb a little of the state’s political DNA, but it might leave you convinced that we are all descended from old, bearded white guys.

MLK and New Hampshire

It was 50 years ago this month that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Tennessee. For their safety and well-being, his wife and family retreated to stay with friends in New Hampshire.

Getting Seussified

Did you know that Dr. Seuss was born in New Hampshire? To be clear, I’m not saying that the man who became Dr. Seuss was born here, just that he assumed that famous name while he was here.
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Popular Articles

  1. New Boston's Historic Fourth of July Celebration
    New Boston, New Hampshire, loves the Fourth of July so much the whole town turns out for the...
  2. Building on Hope's 2018 Project
    Local nonprofit group Building on Hope brings new life to the Crisis Center of Central New...
  3. Best of NH 2018 This & That
    Not all of New Hampshire's best things fit neatly into categories. Here are our Editor's Picks...
  4. Walpole's New Farmer-Owned Diner
    It doesn't get much more local than this. The Hungry Diner is an extension of Walpole Valley...
  5. Best of NH 2018 Breweries, Wine, Spirits, Cocktails & Bars
    Don't just eat local, drink local! Where to find the best New Hampshire beer, wine, spirits,...
  6. Best of NH 2018 Shops & Services
    Think of this as the ultimate guide to retail therapy. Plus, get excellent recommendations for...
  7. Best of NH 2018 Delis, Butcher Shops, Catering, Cafés, Lunch and Breakfast
    Up the "wow" factor by catering with an authentic Hawaiian luau, try Italian breakfast pizza,...
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags