PAT NEAL: The best Arbor Day ever

HOW WAS YOUR Arbor Day? Traditionally celebrated on the last Friday in April, Arbor Day is probably the most significant holiday you’ve never heard of, so it’s not a surprise you missed it.

Arbor Day is the favorite holiday for those who loathe holidays.

It’s free of the emotional baggage of other holidays that plunge us into an orgy of consumer debt, social anxiety and holiday travel that has us ask, why can’t Arbor Day last all year?

All you have to do to celebrate Arbor Day in the traditional manner is plant a tree. It will grow.

Keep planting trees and you’ll have a forest.

Experts contend the practice of sitting in a forest, called forest bathing, is an uplifting experience that acts as an antidote to the stress of our modern lives by bringing our vibrational patterns into a healing alignment.

It’s believed the forest facilitates the cleansing of all our stored-up negativity, stress and psychotic episodes, allowing them to be absorbed into the ecosystem by reinforcing the idea that we are one with nature.

Recent scientific data indicates trees might possibly improve many health issues such as mental illness, ADHD and depression.

Some believe trees can alleviate headaches, improve reaction time and concentration levels.

Other imagined benefits of forest bathing include a greater life expectancy, a higher sense of meaningfulness, lower cognitive anxiety and better body image.

But is that fair to the trees? Everything is offensive if you think about it, and I have.

Trees are not just used for our houses, furniture and paper products anymore. These days trees are a physic dumping ground for all of our personal problems.

Inevitably, forest bathing devolved into an abusive scenario of unwanted touching, known as tree hugging.

Recently, some scientists somewhere speculated trees communicate their needs and send each other nutrients through an elaborate, symbiotic relationship with the mycelium of fungi buried in the soil that are similar to neural networks in human brains.

Trees talk to each other, sending warning signals about environmental change and death.

Research has not revealed the trees’ emotional response to an invasion of tree huggers.

To the trees, the human race most likely represents a bunch of road-building, carbon-spewing apes with fire and chainsaws, whose daily activities push the Earth closer to midnight on the doomsday clock.

That’s not something trees want to hug.

Then there’s the physical harm abusive tree hugging can cause. People weigh a whole lot more than they used to.

A tree subjected to an abusive “group hug” can be devastated.

While hugging the tree, you’re stomping the filigree of fungi mycelium beneath the soil that not only feeds the tree, it sequesters carbon from the atmosphere.

Abusive tree hugging can remove the rich tapestry of moss, lichen and liverworts covering the bark that preserves moisture and provides a home to bacteria that take nitrogen from the air and supply it to the tree so it can grow still larger.

It’s easy to identify trees that have been victims of tree hugging.

The soil around their trunks has been stomped into a muddy patch where nothing grows. Its bark is bereft of the forest community that grows on trees that have not been subjected to this unwanted touching.

It is hoped that this Arbor Day, people will stop exploitation of our forests by venting our personal problems with the questionable practice of forest bathing.

Really, the trees don’t want to hear it. It’s time to stop abusive tree hugging worldwide.

Stop crushing the liverworts.

Hug a human instead and have the best Arbor Day ever!


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via

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