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Guest Posts, healing, Mental Health

Humans Need Trees

July 24, 2021

by Dez Hill

Numerous people in this world have encountered some form of conflict in their life. How these conflicts are dealt with varies from person to person. Many people have traumatic incidents that they endure also, which can cause a disorder called PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). The traumatic events that lead to post-traumatic stress disorder are usually so overwhelming, and frightening that they would upset anyone. When your sense of safety and trust are shattered, it’s normal to feel crazy, disconnected, or numb, and most people do.

Let’s explore different ways to deal with PTSD. Self- soothing activities is the most popular way to help keep your emotions under control. If you are unfamiliar with what self-soothing activities are here is a quick summary for you. Self-soothing activities are a source of decreased arousal, pleasurable sensations and calming feelings. They are characterized by: slow, gentle or rhythmical movements; softness in texture, tone and hues; quietness in volume. They include but are not limited to the following: • Calming breathing • Gentle holding and rocking • Calming self-talk • accessing calming sensations: e.g., warm baths and showers, warm drinks, soft textiles (blankets, bed socks, soft toys, hot water bottles), calming music, soft lighting walking, gardening or swimming therapeutic process.

These activities are an incredible way to deal with what symptom’s you may be feeling in that moment; but I want to explore a different route. Let’s think outside the box; trees.

A symbiotic relationship exists between trees and humans.  Humans breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, while trees breathe in carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. There are many similarities between humans and trees. For example, let’s take the American Hardwood tree. These trees are like humans in three distinct and profound ways: Both are mostly water; both have a peak life span of approximately 80 years and both are completely unique. The most important similarity between humans and trees is that each tree, like each human, is unique and beautiful in its own way.

People need trees. They need to see leaves from their windows, to sit in green spaces, and to play in the shade. Trees draw people out from behind walls of brick and glass. Nature restores the mental functioning in the same way that food and water restore bodies.

Man-made environments take away from us, nature gives back. . Forests, streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans demand very little from us, though they’re still engaging, ever changing, and attention-grabbing. The difference between natural and urban landscapes is how they command our attention. While man-made landscapes bombard us with stimulation, their natural counterparts give us the chance to think as much or as little as we’d like, and the opportunity to replenish exhausted mental resource.

Choosing Nature is always the best way to go.

Desarae “Dez” Hill is a Californian, Amateur Writer and Poet who has been published in “Timeless Voices” and in “BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON”. She is a huge advocate of Mental Health. She, herself, suffers from chronic PTSD and has been searching for ways to help not only herself but to also help others who suffer from PTSD.


Although each of Jenny Offill’s books is great, this is the one we come back to, both to reread and to gift. Funny and thoughtful and true, this little gem moves through the feelings of a betrayed woman in a series of observations. The writing is beautiful, and the structure is intelligent and moving, and well worth a read.

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Anti-racist resources, because silence is not an option


Guest Posts, Nature

Where Do We Go?

June 28, 2021

by Kristine Kimmel

I live near an ancient forest. I know that it’s ancient because there is a small placard as you enter that reads “Ancient Forest.” My favorite species are the Coast redwoods, which tower over Sago palms spreading their stiff green arms, and the Australian tree ferns, which show off feathery plumes like proud strutting peacocks. Even through my mask, the woodland balm- a mix of warmed bark, musk, and spice- (a scent I am continually searching for in perfumes) loosens my shoulders and untangles the knots of my mind.

As a forest dork, I am fortunate to be tucked into a hillside with an abundance of nature. Monterey pines in which hawks nested for the last three mating seasons and a Coast live oak, recognizable by her razor-sharp leaves that resemble dead beetles and make going barefoot impossible. But it’s those redwoods in the ancient forest that inspire me to use words like transcendental, metaphysical. Spiritual? I’m going to stop because I’m starting to sound like a box of tea. But only when I walk among them do I think to myself, Okay, maybe there is something to this God business.

In Japan, a researcher named Dr. Qing Li studied the benefits of spending time in the forest. He encouraged something he termed “shinrin-yoku.” “Shinrin,” means “forest,” and “yoku” means “bath.” Forest-bathing is “taking in the forest through our senses.” According to his research, trees release phytoncides- antimicrobial essential oils that purportedly boost the immune system. In the early days of Covid, I placed a blanket on our front porch and asked my two eight- year- olds to join me for forest bathing. They were perplexed. This is boring. Can I bring my iPad? When does the bath part start?  It reminded me of a time years ago when a friend in Austin sent me some Reiki to help with my neck pain. A few weeks later, I called her: “Did you ever send that Reiki you were talking about? I haven’t gotten anything in the mail.”

In August, my husband and I rented an RV and took our two kids on a four- hour drive north to Santa Cruz to stare at something other than screens. The kids loved the RV, but I advise parents to skip this house on wheels set-up. There is a kitchen and, with that comes a constant expectation of food preparation. The sleeping quarters are akin to folding yourself into half or thirds origami-style, so you might fit into a suitcase or the trunk of a Toyota Corolla. As we walked among the old-growth coast redwoods, I felt humbled and awed in the presence of these venerable elders. Coast redwoods are a deep rich auburn, and their bark resembles fur. They are impossibly soft like a fuzzy sweater or an animal’s downy coat. I said to my kids, “You know, the next time we come up here, these trees could be gone.” My daughter looked up at me and said, “Can I look at your phone?” Less than a week later, one of California’s massive wildfires swept through Big Basin Redwood State Park and threatened some of the trees, which are among the tallest on earth. Luckily most of them survived, but how much longer can these ancient trees withstand the devastation of these annual fires when 2020 saw over 4 million acres burned? And how much longer can I?

I worship California. Despite the crushing traffic, the constant threat of “the big one,” and years-long droughts, she has been my purest and most enduring love. I’ve never, in nearly two decades in my adopted state, thought, “Gee, I wonder what it would be like to live in “FILL IN THE BLANK.” Never once have my eyes wandered from her blooming jacaranda and palm-lined sunsets.

That is, until last year, after our third time nervously eyeing Twitter updates on the latest giant fire’s progress. All the while, thick yellow smoke obscuring our mountain view, our car nose- out in the driveway, go-bags packed. We’ve never had to evacuate, but we’ve had more close calls than I’m comfortable with- my comfort level on close calls with evacuation orders being zero close calls. Many nights, struggling to sleep, I’ve turned to my husband and asked, “Are we doing this wrong? I feel like we might be doing this wrong.” This year, the wildfire season and the pandemic brought a double quarantine. We couldn’t go outside because the air was at toxic levels, and the entire state was in the same predicament. Oregon, which I’d always considered my backup state- aka California Two- had it even worse. Climate scientists predict a growing number of autumn days with extreme fire weather over the next 80 years. Am I on board for keeping my children inside days and weeks at a time because of toxic air? Or scarier scenarios I’ll imagine tonight at 2 am when everyone else is sleeping?

I’ve noticed I have friends in two camps. The ones who don’t want to face this. I see their eyes gloss over or a slight tensing of their jaw. Why is she talking about this? I imagine them thinking. I don’t want to worry about this right now! I am worried enough about Zoom school and my marriage and Covid, and it’s not fair of her to bring up this climate catastrophe crap when I just want to drink my rosé and talk about how hot Adam Driver is! Yes, I am the bummer Zoom hang; I am a surprise screening of the documentary Blackfish when you thought you were going to Sea World. Then there are the other parents who are putting their houses on the market, reconsidering moving back to the states where their parents live, trying to convince themselves how hip Toledo is now.

I’m researching Vermont lately and Maplewood, New Jersey. I’ve never been to either place. Vermont because I suspect it might be the second most beautiful place in the United States and Maplewood because my friend Jen is moving there with her family, and she says it’s “the new Brooklyn.” I already don’t want to leave California, so New Jersey is a hard sell. Leaving California feels like breaking up with my boyfriend for him because he doesn’t have the guts. “California, I hate that you are making me do this,” I’ll say through my snot and tears. California, head hung low, like a dog that just peed on the rug, will reply, “I know, I’m the jerk. You’re great.”

I realize how lucky I am that I can worry over this. I’m not standing in line at a food bank, worrying about how I will feed my kids. I’m not forced to put myself and my family at risk as an essential worker. My family is safe, so far.

The night Pennsylvania was called for Biden, a heavy downpour drenched our region. The next morning, shrouded in a comforting fog, I pored over the news on my phone. Maybe the fire season was finally over. I threw on a warm coat and returned to my ancient forest, with an eight-year-old in tow. As we entered, we pulled down our masks, but the familiar smell I longed for was gone. Instead, crisp cold winter invaded my senses. I could see my breath. I pulled my daughter’s hood over her head. She promptly pulled it down, because don’t you try and tell her what to do. I placed my hand on the first redwood we encountered in greeting. My daughter joined me. I asked her what she thought. “Feels like a puppy.”

We found a bench, and she opened her notebook and began sketching. Mine remained tucked away in my backpack. I allowed my thoughts to float freely with the wind rustling through the treetops. I was bathing in the forest just as Qing Li advised. I focused on my eight-year old’s sun-lit copper tangles as she huddled over her aquamarine flip sequin notebook. A shift had occurred, and it was beyond the temperature change. The forest felt more settled, more secure. On a rational level, I knew that none of the West coast’s forests are any safer in the coming fire season than the last five seasons. But a tiny voice inside me looked upon my ancient forest and thought, you are protected. I had the sudden urge to throw myself on the soft earth and sob in relief because it no longer felt like the fate of this forest- all the forests, all the people suffering, my own children’s safety, and my own mental health- was all on me.

“Look, Mama, I drew a redwood.” A giant tree took up the entire page. At the bottom, two tiny stick figures spread their skinny arms wide on the redwood’s massive trunk.

Kristine Kimmel is a Los Angeles based writer with multiple television credits. She has an MFA from Antioch University and a memoir currently out on submission. Her work has been featured in Dame, Mommyish, Motherlode, The Establishment, and more.



Stories of parent/child relationships can be complex, and Emma’s Laugh, The Gift of  Second Chances, is no exception.  Convinced of her inability to love her “imperfect” child and give her the best care and life she deserved, Diana gave Emma up for adoption. But as with all things that are meant to be, Emma found her way back home. As Emma grew, Diana watched her live life determinedly and unapologetically, radiating love always. Emma evolved from a survivor to a warrior, and the little girl that Diana didn’t think she could love enough rearranged her heart. In her short eighteen years of life, Emma gifted her family the indelible lesson of the healing and redemptive power of love.

Read Diana’s ManifestStation essay here

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Guest Posts, Health

My Dead Branches

December 7, 2020

By Kayleigh Shuler

It was an overcast and particularly taxing morning in May of 2020, dealing with my fear of the unknown and my frustration with the uncontrollable. Going on New York City’s third month of quarantine, things had shifted from “Ah – an opportunity to bake!” to “When will this end?!” rather drastically in the last week or two. I decided to get myself moving by hand-washing one of my favorite sweaters, making myself some tea and going to look at the (still) nearly-barren tree outside my window. It was May, and all of the other trees around were dressed in green, full bloom. My poor tree was adorned with the occasional bud and leaf, but otherwise looked lifeless and tired. I felt rather lifeless, too, most days. It felt like we watched one another everyday and were saying, “You’re still here. I’m still here. We’re still here. That’s all we need to know.”

Her roots live in cement between a parking lot and a sidewalk where drunk men “play” at night. She has been spat, peed, and thrown up upon. The base of her body has been doused in beer. And despite all that… there she stands, day after day, outside my window. During the day she’d let her green baby buds sway in the wind. Her branches are café tables for chatty birds that I loved listening to. She was bare, but she was more than enough for me.

I was in the kitchen when loud sounds from outside brought me into my living room holding a sopping wet sweater, a cup of tea and what felt like the weight of the world. I looked out the window at the tree, and watched as one of her branches came crashing down. My eyes darted to a man with an electric saw standing on a roof behind her. Then, another branch came crashing down. They were disposing of her because she couldn’t bloom like the rest, I suspected. She had been deemed useless; a waste of space in a potential construction zone. I thought how selfish they were… how unfair it was… how empty she was, now. She never had a chance. They had violated her, only to cut her down and leave her to rot. They left her looking even more naked and kind of lop-sided. I figured all of her buds would be dead by morning.

My eyes welled up with tears and my face got hot. My throat and chest constricted and my hands went a little numb. I was so angry. Anger, rage and sadness welled up inside me and came out, finally, as I let myself and the sopping wet sweater and the still hot cup of tea fall to the floor and feel loss, for a while. Of course, I realize now that I was grieving much more than tree branches. Seeing the tree branches fall was just the trigger I needed for release. I let myself feel and cry, and eventually got myself up and trudged through the rest of my day, loathing all of mankind and feeling helpless in a cruel, unjust, and out of control world.

Not a week later, she started blooming green like I had never seen in two years here. She began growing, expanding, getting so full of life, now. I thought something was being taken from her and that she’d be left to rot, but it was actually just what she needed: to trim the dead parts of herself and grow. A couple weeks later, there was a full moon in Capricorn during a Lunar Eclipse. I don’t claim to know much about astrology, but everything I read about it in the days leading up indicated that this was a time of… wait for it: shedding what no longer serves us. Letting go. Leaving or re-evaluating relationships that we have outgrown. Trimming the dead parts of ourselves, so that we can grow and be full of life.

I’m looking at her outside my window, now. She and I look at each other all day long as I work; my desk is purposefully positioned that way. In a place like Brooklyn where the view outside my bedroom window is a wall, a big, beautiful tree outside one of my windows is a luxury not to be underappreciated. It makes me smile to look at her and write about her triumph; I feel proud. She’s beautiful: full of dark, green leaves and even those little bright green things that always fall on the sidewalk. My dad taught me to peel back the edges and stick them on my nose so I would look like a rhinoceros. I still do it all the time. That may have been the only thing my dad taught me to do that I still do (on purpose). I do plenty of the things he didn’t mean to teach me all the time.

My memory of life with my father is not “mostly good with a few bad moments”. I remember it as mostly bad with a few good moments. I can probably count the number of times I felt true love from my father on one hand. That’s okay, though, because I’ve learned not to need it. I’ve learned not to expect, or feel I deserve, a lot from him. He learned that from his father, as well. Many people find ways to avoid the hand life dealt them. For my father, it was music, first and foremost. A master of the art, he could get lost playing, dissecting or writing a piece for hours at a time. When music wouldn’t cut it, however, he turned to something stronger. Eventually, music fell by the wayside, and so did the artist and man he could have been.


One night in early February of 2020, I found myself in a delightful martini bar in the West Village of Manhattan. I had been at work all day and wasn’t feeling ready to go home, quite yet. I had been obsessed with martinis at the time. Reading about them, looking at pictures, comparing reviews and recipes of different variations. I felt, now that I was 25, it was time to sample New York’s finest and try my first real martini.

So, there I sat in the dimly lit and (now unthinkably) packed bar on a weekday evening, sipping my first martini and pretending I enjoyed it. It tasted salty, nutty and like rubbing alcohol. It must have been excellent,  just not my thing. I finished it and talked to the bar tender about a different option for my next. He suggested a gimlet, saying that it was lime based and a little sweet, and I was sold. So sold, in fact, that I had four.

I sat there, becoming woozy and soft in my mind, like a massage to my brain. It felt so good, like I was melting into the corner I had tucked myself away in. I was a fly on the wall, people-watching and invisible. I overanalyzed interactions betweens guests, tried to guess what people did for work, created backstories for everyone there. I began writing on my phone and was, honestly, overcome with emotion at the sheer brilliance of my creative genius while intoxicated with all of this lovely gin. I sat there, thinking: This is what he must have felt.

After a while I became bored and lonely, and those are not good things to be when you are highly intoxicated. I went to write again, but the high had left and the low had entered. Writing was no longer an escape from loneliness; it was accentuating it. I looked at what I had written before. It didn’t make sense. It was all just a bunch of fancy words and ideas. No through line, no purpose, no direction. Just spatterings of what felt like creative genius just fifteen minutes ago. I suppose a lot of people would be able to laugh at this, their silly drunken writing. Maybe I could have, too. Except I was bored and lonely and highly intoxicated, so instead, I sat there thinking: This is what he must have felt.

When the thing that gave me creative genius tricked me like that, I felt so embarrassed, because I had deceived myself. In my experience, alcohol taunts what’s already there. It brings the shadows to light but doesn’t make me feel strong enough to face them. So, I’d drink more and a little more “genius” would strike, and then fade. So, I’d drink more and a little more “genius” would strike… etc. The thing that always troubled me with alcohol was that it seemed to have no positive lasting effects, only bad ones.

The morning after the four gimlets, I had a rehearsal for a very exciting project, for which I was hungover. Getting up that morning was laborious. Being at rehearsal would have been great, except, I wasn’t fully there. I was tending to a hangover and, worse than that, my guilt. I felt so guilty for arriving in this professional environment feeling sick and unworthy. I was not up to the task. I left that day feeling ashamed and tired.

I began to think about my relationship with alcohol in a more critical way. How do I feel before drinking alcohol? Impatient, excited and fiery. How do I feel while drinking alcohol? Subdued, relaxed, and happy, at first. Second drink I’m feeling good, buckling in, and I start “saying it like it is”. Then around the third drink, I begin second guessing everything I say,  and I start getting emotional. If I make it to the fourth, I become very analytical, and dark thoughts and reasons why I shouldn’t feel good start filling my brain. My brain always, inevitably, leads me to something that doesn’t feel good, because I think that the most hurt parts of me still believe I don’t deserve to be happy. Truly happy with no exceptions.

When I realized that alcohol was a gatekeeper to dark thoughts and inhibited my ability to defend myself from them, I began to question whether or not this could be a long term relationship for me. I always felt like I couldn’t go to battle with the dark thoughts; I’d just wave my white flag and have another drink.

When I say “go to battle”, I don’t mean telling myself things like, “Go away bad thoughts! Stop! Stop!”. That wouldn’t help because I wouldn’t be addressing it, just commanding it. Dark thoughts and, especially, trauma don’t work like that. Dark thoughts need to be told that they are not allowed in the driver’s seat and why; they stem from our childhood and are as reckless, naive and irrational as the children we were when we first formed them. They don’t respond well to panic. They need calm and clear direction. Direction can look like asking these dark thoughts questions, such as: Why does this keep coming up for me? Why do I always feel angry when X happens? How could what I’ve been through in the past be showing up in my life now? What would make me feel better right now?

I’ve worked on this piece slowly over four months. In that time I have shed old parts of myself so that I can grow, but not without many tears and the digging up of old, rotting roots. Like that tree, losing half of her arms at a moment’s notice, the changes I have undergone have left me feeling stripped and shell-shocked. The unknown became something I didn’t need an answer to, only something worth exploring. I haven’t had a drink since that last gimlet.

And here I stand: blooming. Not fully there, yet. Not like some of the other trees around me, who’ve weathered this storm and stand taller because of it. But my baby buds are swaying in the wind and I am on my way. Growth lies in the unknown, the uncomfortable and the, sometimes, terrifying. Everything that most of us were taught to avoid or control is unavoidable and out of our control. Perhaps it’s best, then, to make peace with this fact, shed the old parts of ourselves and grow. Why not me? Why not you?

Kayleigh Shuler is a writer/screenwriter living in Boston, MA. Kayleigh writes and directs custom scenes for actors and loves being a part of anyone’s creative and spiritual journey. Follow Kayleigh on Instagram at @kayleigh_shuler.

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