Sheila immerses in “Forest Bathing” originated in 1980's Japan to lift spirits and consciousness. Photo courtesy Katherine Sye Grover.

As I wish you a Happy New Year it’s with the caveat if there’s ever been a year I’d like to completely forget it would be 2020. From “fifteen cases soon to be zero,” to now, a Covid death in L.A. County every 10 minutes and nationwide every 30 seconds. To call 2020 a nightmare is being downright polyannaish. Other than pathetically slow distribution so far, with vaccines there is hope. (Except many people apparently worry a shot will plant a chip allowing George Soros and the late Hugo Chavez to monitor their every move.)

The past four years have been so horrific it has inspired hopeful new age “positivity” thinking from the likes of Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson and millions from 55 countries around the world. Rather than hate-filled political attacks, these spiritually inclined souls are turning to nature for answers. (However admirable, I confess, it’s definitely over my pay grade of understanding, at least so far.)

But not so for Sheila Laffey, SMC Adjunct Professor who has produced, promoted and screened environmental documentaries for many years. After considerable training, Sheila’s just become a certified a “Nature and Forest Therapy Guide.” (Sheila quotes the founder of the Association of Forest Nature Therapy, Amos Clifford, “The forest is the therapist. The Guide opens the doors.”)

Whether it’s walking barefoot on the beach or hikes into the woods to absorb the natural healing chemicals of trees and foliage, statistics document benefits to humans battling stress causing disease and discovering health-oriented alternatives to holding on to animus. (From my years with the U.S. Forest Service some of this resonates about which I’ll comment later.)

Over past weeks, I’ve received “thank you” emails from readers for my break in adding more fuel to the political fires. (The truth is I’m exhausted.) Meanwhile, if it’s any comfort, while 2020 was undoubtedly the worst year in our lifetimes, it was far from the worst for the planet. That belongs to 536.

Probably from a gigantic volcanic eruption in Iceland, the year began with ash and dense fog which plunged Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia into darkness 24 hours a day, for nearly 2 years. (Which at least would have made messy sunscreen unnecessary.)

Global temperatures plummeted, crops failed and famine was rampant. To make matters worse, in 541 A.D., an outbreak of bubonic plague led to the death of 100 million people leading medieval historians to refer to this era as the “Dark Ages.” (Which not only sounds like a colossal understatement but also makes ludicrous the “inconvenience” of wearing masks so many bitch about.)

In my still recent experiment of being less partisan in these columns, I won’t list what I think Joe Biden’s administration will do to restore normal life again, but rather what it’s certain he won’t do. For example, it’s unlikely Biden would refer to any future pandemics as “hoaxes.”

It’s a certainty he will not make fun of the disabled or insult Gold Star families. Nor will he troll a brilliant female teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome who, for years, has been trying tirelessly to save the planet from climate change. For this, in 2019, she was awarded “Time Magazine Person of the Year” outraging a certain narcissist who thought he should have won that prestigious accolade.

And if Biden is ever face to face with a murderous dictator and sworn enemy of America and has to decide whom to believe, our intelligence services or the enemy’s, it’ll be the former every time. (How refreshing.) And until the pandemic is over, Biden would never mock people wearing masks or brag about the size of a super spreader political rally because, following science, he won’t ever hold one.

I see no likelihood of Biden boasting, “I’m like really rich,” or “I’m like really smart” or refer to himself as a “stable genius.” (Did anyone ever hear Einstein say “I’m like really smart?” )

I can’t imagine Biden humiliating reporters, abruptly walking out of press conferences or looking up into the sky and claiming “I’m the chosen one.” Nor will Biden take a sharpie and illegally change an official government weather map rather than admit he made a simple mistake; or recommend nuking the approaching hurricane or suggest bleach to cure Covid.

Hopefully it’s been resolved by now, but if Congress passed a stimulus relief bill endorsed by the Biden administration there’s no chance at the 11th hour Joe would pull the plug. That would causing suffering to millions of American families and who in their right mind would do that?

In closing, there’s one small factor that just might make it easier for me to turn over a new leaf and participate in Sheila’s Forest Therapy Guide groups. Going back to my time with the Forest Service, I still have the hiking boots.

For Sheila’s Nature Therapy walks email slaffey108@gmail.com. For more info on this approach go Google “ANFT.earth.”