Swimming Against the Current by Frances Reilly

Updated: Jun 4, 2019



I spent today driving around a good chunk of San Diego looking for a particular trailhead that would lead me to a hidden gem where I could possibly have some tree covering and a water feature. All the directions and addresses I found online led me to two very different neighborhoods, in two totally different parts of San Diego. Both addresses were literal dead ends.


And, here I sit in the library researching other possible trails in my city, looking for the perfect place to have a forest bathing nature walk different from the same location and experience I’ve already offered. I’ve been doing this for a solid hour. Luckily, I have Doris Day radio on Pandora to keep me from completely pulling down books off the shelves out of frustration. Doris was a huge environmentalist, ya know.



Before I got to the point of totally giving up, it occurred to me that I’ve had this problem before. In fact, I’ve been doing this same research on-and-off for 15 years that I’ve been living in So Cal. You see, I grew up in Central Coast, where the redwoods spill into the ocean and are shrouded by a pure, white mist that just soothes and calms and creates an inner stillness that everyone, who’s experienced it, craves again and again. The closest I get is when I take hikes north of here or in East San Diego County in the Cleveland National Forest.


But … I don’t want to take you on a hike. I want to take you on a slow walk; an intentional, peaceful walk where you’ll engage your senses, slowly, with expansiveness, while beginning to notice how your inner world is affected by your environment. There would be no target, no goal. No thought of “this is a 3.5 mile looped trail that is an easy to moderate walk with a slight incline.” We have enough goals in our personal and professional lives to last us our … well, our lives. So, the challenge remains: where do I find the perfect forest bathing walk in San Diego?! Argh!!



Synchronistically, my partner Erin and I had just been talking about my mother’s wise words to me half a lifetime ago, “try to go with the flow. Stop trying to swim against the current.” Erin said that was very “Pisces of her” to say that. I don’t know that means. But, I did have a lightbulb moment of omg … uh … I forgot one of the first things we’re gonna teach in our e-course (module 2, in fact) – a sense of place.


San Diego is a coastal desert climate. We have trees. They’re just weird Dr. Seuss trees. And, we have water in the form of streams and river when there’s no drought, but mostly we have ocean. Here I was looking for a “redwoods experience” in a desert location. This is where my head thunked on the lovely, wood library table.


How am I to teach people from all around the world, in different climates and natural places, how to appreciate their environment, what their local natural world has to offer, and how it can be healing if I don’t do the same myself?


Now, don’t lose your faith in me. I know how to do this, otherwise I wouldn’t be teaching it. I just forget to practice it every so often. And, I think that’s because I, like everybody else, get comfortable and complacent. Though it’s called “practice,” even going out in nature as your mental and spiritual practice is not meant to be stagnant. It’s not meant to be the same experience over and over again. Well, yes … you could say that practicing a sport would be the same experience. I mean, you keep swinging at the ball to hit it in order to get better. But, even if you’re in a batting cage with a machine, you make incremental, imperceptible changes in your stance, in the way you hold the bat, and whatnot, to make that ball fly farther even though the ball flies at you exactly the same way each time.




So, I’m gonna practice what I preach, learn what I teach, and do a little more research – to understand the topography, the geography, the local flora and fauna, and the history of the land in which I live. I know quite a bit already, but there’s always more to learn and more to appreciate. The land is healing. The plants on it have medicine. And, the animals bring messages. And, before the next walk I guide, I’ll know more about my land, my home.


And, in my walk, my participants will learn how special and healing is this place, San Diego. Hope you can come join me because, by then, I’ll be bursting at the seams to share it with you!


Sunset Cliffs, Ocean Beach, San Diego by Frances Marie Reilly