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Elliott Holt Recommends...

Writers Recommend

Posted 1.16.13

"I'm a city girl. I was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and I've spent my entire adult life living in cities (Moscow, London, Amsterdam, New York, and now Washington again). I love big cities for the energy, the people-watching, the access to art and culture, the ability to feel anonymous. But I also need a daily 'forest bath,' as the Japanese call it. I take a long walk in the woods almost every day to clear my head. (In Moscow, I walked in wooded parks; in London, I went to Hampstead Heath; in Amsterdam, I walked in the Amsterdamse Bos; in Brooklyn, I was in Prospect Park every day; now my daily walk is in Rock Creek Park.) I've been doing this for years. There is something about being on the trails, in the silence, under all those trees that does wonders for my brain. (A couple of years ago, The New York Times noted the health benefits of 'forest bathing':  apparently time spent among trees and plants reduces stress and boosts immune function.) I take my dog with me and sometimes I sort out character and plot problems on my walks. But more often than not, the walk is just a way to let go—of anxiety, of ego—and recharge my creative batteries. I always work better after I've been in the woods."
Elliott Holt, author of You Are One of Them (The Penguin Press, 2013)

Reader Comments

  • sfpoch says...

    The Sea is my "forest." And it never fails to restore.

  • Marta says...

    My husband and I live in Gold Country California where there is plenty of nature for walks and contemplation. We recently lost both our mothers and we miss them terribly.

  • gchoward says...

    Even when woods aren't handy, just walking outside re-energizes me and untangles the cobwebs in my brain, turning them into silken threads of prose.

  • Nederlo1 says...

    An excellent idea, this. I have 75 acres of Upper Midwest forest less than a dozen steps from my studio door and I venture there frequently. And yet I really miss my 10 years in Manhattan and cannot wait for my next week of renewal there. From a creative standpoint, the bath is where one takes it.

  • judithhb says...

    Hi Elliot.  Here in Wellington NZ we are blessed with many open spaces and bush walks very close to the city.  I often go with my small dog and feel totally refreshed after only a few minutes in the bush.  I feel the energy in the trees and bush being reflected into me.  Thanks for sharing this idea with us.


  • 10724 says...


    Here we are, settling toward deepest winter.

    Roses were red, violets blue,

    the coming school bus yellow

    as we began to tune the dampers

    and violin keys of our stoves.

    News of the world

    feels like ONE from here: the treadle

    of our neighbor horse's lip,

    Manhattan's tongue in the bay,

    the now-hidden ever-landing housefly,

    the chipmunk's lockstep attention

    at the bird feeder,


    the flow of art and


                                                                        Henry Braun, OWS (Occupy Wilderness Singer)

  • monnieb says...

    Being born in Indiana,I have always loved trees and felt drawn to them. They make my soul sigh and absorb life's sourness. Elliot, you should try walking among the redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. I lived surrounded by them for several years and never felt so free.

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