Cristina Rodriguez Gonzalez has a fascinating combination of humility, sweet voice and unstoppable tenacity that has led her to be one of the most prolific Guides. She is an FTHub Forest Therapy Practitioner and Environmental Engineer who founded Shinrin Yoku Santander, in Spain, thanks to a process of networking and self-improvement. In addition to giving workshops and walks for the general public, inspired by the sensoriality of forest bathing, she dedicated herself to learning Sign Language to guide walks for deaf people. And it works wonders.
“When I think about how I came to do this, I call it ‘the path to nature’. I’m an environmental engineer. I was very much in the industrial world and I felt that it didn’t fit me. Being inside a building for a long time was not fulfilling for me. That’s why I started working as an Environmental Educator taking people out into nature and it was a total change.
“When I discovered that this is such a sensory practice, I decided to study Sign Language to take deaf people to the forest, because for me hearing is something that connects me a lot with nature. I started to study and I’m still studying: it’s a real art“.
“I think that to design a walk in Sign Language, you not only have to think about translating our words, but it is also important to try to put yourself in the shoes of deaf people and provide them with as complete a sensory experience as possible.
“I keep a very nice idea that was shared with me: ‘Sign language and forest bathing are very similar: in the calm, in the silence and in being attentive‘”.
The path of perception
“I was asked to do the experience with adults and then with children. It has its complexity because the language has to be more precise and specific. The children had a great time, but I was more impressed by the group of adults. One said that it is a memory that he will never forget, that the activities had helped them even more to perceive the details. Very grateful, because I don’t think there’s much opportunity for them to do a lot of different things either.
“In children there is a lot of play, a lot of smiles and surprise. This last walk for the Federation of Associations of Deaf People of Cantabria (in Mataleñas Park in Santander) was very special. I was delighted to see how the children were very interested in learning about new signs related to nature and enjoying the experience through their senses.
“From the beginning we connected very well, the calm and closeness we transmitted to each other was mutual. So much so, that when the end of our forest bathing session came, both they and I found it hard to finish the experience. It was as if we wanted to stop time, continue together in that environment surrounded by nature and continue sharing sensory activities to connect with that beautiful place”.
The path to nature
“When I discovered Forest Bathing, I began to experience nature in a different way. The training was a very strong calling because as soon as I saw what being a Forest Bathing Guide was all about, I said ‘this is my ideal place, I want to work in this profession’.
“To build my venture as a Guide I did several entrepreneurship programs and there I was weaving networks with other entrepreneurs. It’s about weaving that network and making the activity known. It has been quite a journey: there is still a lot of lack of knowledge.
“I am also giving ‘Nature and Wellness’ workshops in the Civic Centers of my city, they are weekly one-hour indoor classes, and the experience has changed that group of people, it has helped them to be more determined or feel better, it has transformed their day. What I value most is the social aspect, because I have seen that they needed this space to share, they have remained friends after the workshop and that makes me very happy”.
Ph: Courtesy Cristina Rodriguez Gonzalez, Shinrin Yoku Santander