A Metaphor for Our Times

In order to keep my oft questioned sanity and to get physical exercise, during the COVID19 lockdown I participate in what the Japanese refer to as forest bathing.  Wikipedia describes it as, “One of the earliest and most studied forms of nature therapy. A 2020 systematic review of recent forest therapy studies concluded that “forest therapy plays an important role in preventive medicine and stress management for all age groups.”

My Forest bathing takes place on the many woodland trails near me which I regularly frequent. Astonishingly, I discovered the secrets of the Spring Creek Traila fire hydrant with its bright yellow flag at the base of a marshy valley floor surrounded by forest.

Fire hydrant in the woods
Fire hydrant in the woods

It is quite a distance from roads that a fire truck could access. It is also unlikely that a fire crew would repel down the hill side with a hose to use it during a fire. If the surrounding forest were to go up in flames it would be fool hardy to be surrounded by fire while using this hydrant. You would be between the rock and the hard place!

As such, this lonely fire hydrant poses many questions and is an apt metaphor for our current situation.   How did it (we) get here? What purpose does it serve? Who would use it and why and for what? When? Should it be left; or should it be removed? Is it causing harm to the local environment or to the fire suppression water system? Could it? If it has a problem who would know, how and when? What would they do about it? Would it be in a timely fashion?

The hydrant’s situation is perplexing. It questions logical forethought and planning as does our current situation. While offering patient care and services in these trying times, we have observed that in many of our daily interactions the pandemic has uncovered the weaknesses and faults of our systems. Added stresses in an already stressful time.

So what does this mean? From a healthcare perspective each and every one of us must first look after our own health and wellbeing, then those around us – similar to the instruction on an airplane, if cabin pressure suddenly drops, put on your oxygen mask first; then help family.

Look after your mental health – eat well, rest well, practice anxiety and stress reducing activities; get physical exercise – walk if nothing else in a natural setting; attend to your spiritual wellbeing.

Look after your general health- if you have chronic medical and dental issues, keep your appointments, take your meds, and follow your prescribed treatments and activities.

If you have an acute medical or dental issue don’t wait; have it seen before it becomes a major issue.

Dentists promote prevention. In this  risk laden time prevention is more important than ever. Practice personal and societal prevention.

We will all come out of this together.