Interviewer: Martina Pfeiffer

Who hasn't had the feeling of being in a cathedral in the heart of the forest? The forest, it has an awe-inspiring, protective presence. Immersing in the forest, we feel that something is bigger and older than man. The rustling of the forest is touching, the canopy of leaves provides coolness and shade. Its bottom cushions the step, makes it carefree, light.  Its little streams gurgle and caress their way into the ear. The smell of bark, moss, mushrooms, needles and leaves awakens the primeval in us. Anyone who has ever tasted a wild strawberry will always remember this delicious taste. The sun breaking through the canopy gives the feeling of starting life anew in that one moment. There is something soothing and comforting about the falling night. Forest solitude leads us to our true selve. The forest, with its variety of colours, the never-repeating variations in the shape of its trees, has something mysterious and archaic about it that brings us back to the roots of being human. Worries tend to disappear, as the forest gently cures the diseases caused by civilization: natura sanat. Do we project the human element into it, or is the tree really an individual? Dagna Gmitrovicz is a painter and a forest therapist. As an artist, she particularly appreciates the painters Edvard Munch and Edward Hopper. Dear Dagna, let's plunch into our conversation!

Apart from the term "forest bathing", how did you come up with the idea of becoming a "forest therapist"?
D.G.: Three years ago, I hit a creative roadblock. As a painter, my world revolved around capturing the essence of people on canvas. But suddenly, I couldn't paint a single portrait. It was like my brush had forgotten its dance, and my colours refused to harmonize.
In that time, I found myself drawn to nature in my dreams. What started as a vague whisper soon took shape. I saw in the photo album of Ziółkowski an image of the roots of a banyan tree, with the serene face of Buddha nestled within. It was a calling I couldn't ignore. When I tried to paint it, something unexpected happened. My hand bypassed the Buddha, painting instead vibrant yellows and oranges that seemed to emit light from the roots themselves. The result? "The Chapel in Roots," presents nature's sacredness. Inspired by this discovery, I started spending more time in the forest. It was there that I realized my calling—to guide others through the healing power of nature through art and forest experience. Today, as an ANFT (Association of Nature and Forest Therapy) certified forest therapy guide, I'm on a mission to share this transformative journey with others.                                                                               

You do individual and group tours through the forest: one of those tours is called "forest-whispers". What does the forest whisper to us?
D.G.: I'm constantly amazed by the magic of forest walks. As guides, we always make it clear: we're just the door openers to the forest, but the real healing comes from nature itself. It's like we're in a partnership with the plants, the animals, and the whole ecosystem, which we call: “more than the human world". That's why I named one of my events "Forest Whispers." It's all about highlighting that close bond with nature. You know, when you whisper, you have to lean in close to hear. It's that intimate connection we're aiming for.
But what exactly is the forest whispering? Well, that's the beautiful mystery of it. Each person hears something different. It's like the forest is speaking directly to our hearts, sharing secrets that transform us in ways we can't fully explain. It's personal, it's profound, and it's what makes every walk in nature so special.

I'd love to stick to it: What effect does the forest have on the human mind and soul?
D.G.: The benefits of forest bathing extend far beyond mere relaxation of the mind. Think about it: our ancestors roamed the forests for thousands of years, living, and hunting, for countless generations. It's ingrained in our DNA. Yet, our modern lifestyle has severed many of those primal connections with nature. But here's the thing—there's something innate within us that still yearns for the embrace of the forest. When we find ourselves on a hillside, surrounded by trees with the horizon stretching before us, a sense of peace washes over us. It's as if our souls exhale a sigh of relief, finally finding a familiar rhythm in the embrace of nature.
And science backs it up. Studies have shown that immersing ourselves in nature not only reduces stress and boosts mood but also has tangible effects on our health. From strengthening the immune system to regulating blood pressure and improving concentration, the benefits are undeniable.
In Japan, they've been studying this for years with their shinrin-yoku, which means forest bathing.
There's also something special about the colours of a forest.
I wonder what would happen if you would close your eyes and take a moment to notice how you feel when you gaze at green trees and grass.

How do you feel? How is your breathing? How is your heartbeat?
I wonder what would happen if you store the elements of the inner forest in your memory, I wonder what would happen if you go back to this experience once more, after this podcast:)
Sometimes, it’s not only colour that attracts our attention but also the rhythm of the trees, the play of light and shadow that wraps around us like a comforting blanket.
Did you know that our eyes can pick up more shades of green than any other colour? It's not magic— it's just how we're wired.
But :) even when our bodies are in nature, our minds can still be miles away, caught up in the challenges of everyday life. It's like our thoughts have a mind of their own, hijacking our attention and blocking us from fully immersing ourselves in the beauty around us.
That's where I come in as a forest therapy guide. My job is to gently nudge you back into the present moment, to awaken your senses and invite you to truly connect with nature. It's about opening your heart and tuning into your inner compass, allowing yourself to be in a full presence.
And let me tell you, when that connection happens, the benefits are immense. Suddenly, the air feels fresher, the colours more vibrant, and a sense of peace washes over you like a wave.

Starting with your childhood in Poland, what personal experiences do you have with the forest?
D.G.: I'm really glad you asked me that question because it's a topic that's close to my heart. You see, I spent most of my childhood in a little village called Motyl, which translates to "butterfly" in English. It's a place completely enveloped by forest, where even today, there are no asphalt roads leading in or out.
My grandparents lived there, and they had this special bond with nature. They lived off the land, coexisting with the forest in harmony. For us, the forest wasn't just a backdrop—it was our provider, our protector, and my playground.
As a kid, I was practically raised by the forest. I could recognize the footprints of wild animals, identify countless types of mushrooms, and build all sorts of sculptures and forts out of branches.
So, you see, nature isn't just something I learned about—it's woven into the very fabric of my being. It's where I discovered my sense of wonder, my creativity, and my connection to the world around me. And it's that deep-rooted love for the natural world that inspires me to share its beauty and magic with others every single day.

Do you have any favourite trees? willows, beeches, lime trees, pines, birches, oaks, elms, ...
D.G.: My favorite tree? It's not just a specific type, but one with a special story. Back in my childhood forest, there stood a majestic oak tree. My grandmother would fashion swings from its branches, and I'd spend hours playing and even napping amidst its sturdy limbs. As I grew older, I planted many trees in that same forest, watching them flourish over the years.
But trees aren't confined to forests alone; they also weave their magic in cities. In my hometown of Lodz, there's a graceful willow tree by a pond, swaying gently in the breeze. And here in Berlin, I have a secret haven in one of the city parks. For the past two years, I've frequented this spot, observing nature's cycles and having my outdoor art studio there. It’s my favour spot in Berlin.

Is the tree an individual for you? Does each tree have its own "character"?
D.G.: It's a tough question to tackle. When I try to explain my connection to nature, I often encounter scepticism—from doubts about spirituality to misconceptions about shamanism or even perceptions of madness. But before I delve into an answer, let me give you a bit of background about myself.
I wear many hats—I'm not only an artist and a guide, but I've also completed postgraduate studies in psychotherapy and art therapy, certified by the Erickson Institute. I've worked with children and youth in psychiatric clinics, and I've delved into the realms of shamanism through study and conversations with practitioners. Despite my passion for nature, I'm also quite rational in my approach.
Now, back to the question about the individual characteristics of trees, or the broader concept of the "more than human" world. Our minds and perceptions are often limited by our learned behaviours and biases. However, through practices like meditation and creative exercises, we can expand our awareness and tap into deeper layers of consciousness—what we might call the imaginal sense. In this realm, buried within us, lie stories and feelings that our rational minds struggle to explain. Yet, when we embrace and accept these inner truths, they can become wellsprings of power and wisdom in our lives. It's in these moments that trees, plants, stones, and other entities take on a new significance, forming connections with us. In the practice of forest therapy, we refer to this as the "web of interbeing," recognizing the intricate web of connections we weave with both human and more—than—human beings throughout our lives.
As for my own experiences, I have this special spot in one of Berlin's wild parks where I tend to a small tree that has become a dear friend to me. When I touch its leaves, it's as if I'm holding the hand of a child—profoundly moving and powerful.
The question of whether a tree is an individual raises deeper ideas about our interconnectedness. For me, using the language of art- painting isn't just about capturing the tree's external appearance—it's about expressing the relationship between us. It's like painting the invisible bond that exists between two entities.
I once attended a conference where Milton Erickson's daughter discussed her concept of hypnosis. Instead of merely hypnotizing the client, she aimed to create a transformational experience in the space between therapist and client. It's similar to trees and other beings around us—we each have unique relationships with them, and it's these connections that truly matter and that we have also the power to influence.

In art, it is Edvard Munch and Edward Hopper whose paintings you are particularly interested in: Munch captivates the viewer with existential themes. The echo of Munch's "Scream" continues to reverberate in the 21st century. What is it about Munch that grabs you personally?
D.G.: My connection to Edvard Munch traces back to my childhood. You see, I was named after Dagny Przybyszewska, who inspired many of Munch's paintings. So, naturally, I became intrigued by Munch through my fascination with Dagny. At first, I didn't see him as a painter, but as someone searching for the essence of life itself. What struck me most about Munch's work is how he blends nature and humanity seamlessly. In his paintings, landscapes and portraits intertwine, each essential to the other. It's like they're one entity, where the screaming face mirrors the intensity of the surrounding nature. It's as if there's no line separating humans from the world around them—they're intertwined, feeling and experiencing the same emotions simultaneously. When you look at Despair or Melancholy, you can almost feel nature echoing those emotions. It's as if the very essence of the landscape mirrors the depths of human feelings.

 "... Everything is life, even in the hard mass of stone... Everything is in us, and we are in everything," Munch writes in his sketchbook. How does this affect you?
D.G.: When I hear that phrase, shivers run down my spine. Is it possible that we think so similarly? What would happen if we had the chance to talk? What else could we discover? These words not only speak of the unity of humans with nature but also become a kind of absolute truth, which can sometimes be difficult to live with because it's hard to separate our thoughts from the infinite landscape of existence at the moment. We are everything and everything is us. How do we reconcile that? I suspect that this was also the reason why Munch painted some compositions multiple times or replicated them in various forms and techniques, both in painting and in graphics. Replicating one's works may be a quest for deeper meaning, a striving for understanding that was not graspable at the moment of the first painting.

Edward Hopper is another painter who fascinates you. Astonishing, but Hopper's genius is ignited by things that seem bleak: vending machine restaurants, takeaways, motel rooms, gas stations. Inextricably linked to him are paintings such as "Nighthawks" in the nightly bar or "New York Movie", the movie theatre. Loneliness in social spaces. Do Hopper's pictures get under your skin?
D.G.: Loneliness is a fascinating existential topic. I feel that both Munch and Hopper tell stories about loneliness, but they use different visual languages. Hopper portrays loneliness by showing people in vast spaces. These paintings delve into the areas of our minds, the ones that crave human connection, reciprocity, love, and coexistence. In Munch's work, this coexistence with nature is dynamic, and moving, while in Hopper's, it's frozen, almost lifeless.

In Hopper's paintings time and again: isolated people in sterile rooms, illuminated by a glaring and merciless light. This is a completely different light than the incidence of light that we perceive through the canopy of a forest. Is Hopper's light and shadow geometry an inspiration for you?
D.G.: Hopper's light is fascinating and at the same time very different from how I paint, maybe that's why it captivates me so much. Although much more attention to Hopper's works I draw to the composition of the paintings. Light is just one of many shapes that interact with other forms. There's no depth here. If we free ourselves from the concepts, and names, and look at Hopper's paintings as compositions of colours and shapes, we'll see elements of an incredible phenomenon. I feel that my fondness for Hopper is the result of my studies in composition at the Academy of Fine Arts in Lodz, Poland, where in the studio of the great painter Łobodziski I learned about the magic of planes and colors, and Hopper mastered this magic to perfection.

Hopper is said to have loved the forest, including poems about it. When Hopper paints the forest, it is impenetrable and mysterious. In 1950 he painted "Cape Cod Morning", a picture in which a woman is looking out of the window into a thicket where no light  penetrates. Civilization and nature stand in contrast to each other, as it seems. How do you feel about looking at images like this?
D.G.: When I look at paintings, I read them in a slightly different way—I don't read their content, but rather their form, their expressions. Translating this into verbal language, instead of the meaning of individual words, I hear their rhythms and melodies. When I look at a painting in this way, I see how the tones of blue and green spread across the entire surface of the canvas, and the pink element defining the woman's dress is essential to the composition; if you were to erase it, the painting would lose its sense of existence, its beauty, its balance. So, from this perspective, this painting is about unity for me, not separateness.
What do I feel when looking at this painting? Calmness, connection, unity.

Melancholy is a big theme for Hopper and also for Munch. For you as well?  If so, as an artist or rather in your function as a forest therapist?
D.G.: I used to call this state existentialism, not melancholy. However, I agree. Within my, Dagna’s nature, there are various layers: layers of joy, layers of resilience, layers of love and gratitude, but also a layer of melancholy. It's as if I'm interwoven with melancholy. My grandmother used to recite a poem by Jan Twardowski to me: "Fly thoughts afar where dreams grow, where wild hawthorns bloom in spring, where dreams weave strangely like tales, what is happiness? Longing." This longing is precisely melancholy, a sadness that cannot be described. Do they accompany me in my work? I think it's not for me to judge. My paintings, depicting elements of nature, are open to interpretation. Everyone will read something different in the forest as well as in my works. Perhaps they'll read joy, perhaps they'll read peace, perhaps love, or perhaps melancholy. I am just the one who opens doors, the rest is in the hands of the receiver.

The "Lange Nacht der Bilder" 2024: Is your theme again particularly linked to the forest in any way this time?
D.G.: I believe that my path to understanding is nature. The trees and animals seem to be calling to me, urging me, "Catch me, me and me." Recently, a painting was created showing two children sleeping peacefully among the roots. There was something deeply moving about this piece. These paintings can be seen at the Theater der Kleinen Form in Friedrichshain. For now, I still find inspiration in the peaceful scenery of the forest, where I paint regularly, even in winter. 

Finally,  I would like to know just one more thing: Are there galleries or museums in Berlin that you like to visit?
D.G.: I am not a very gallery person. I love visiting the studios of my colleagues, where in their own chaotic culture, I can see their art. I am tired of organized and highly aesthetic and ornamental exhibitions curated by people who aim for steril balance and dead harmony, often forgetting that our nature needs also exploration, and investigation, like in a forest... immersing inside the unknown in its organic chaos.

I would like to thank you very much for your intense preoccupation with the interview questions and for frankly sharing  your views of nature and art. It has been a great experience for me and I find it extremely rewarding to have such an in-depth conversation. Perhaps our readers will remember your words during their next walk in the woods and feel inspired to record their own thoughts in some more or less artistic form. Dear Dagna, I wish you many more fulfilling encounters, both with the trees and with the people. Wishing you all the best! Thank you so much!

C. V. Dagna Gmitrovicz
born 9.5.1976 in Poland
Currently living in - Berlin/Germany and in Łódź/ Poland, with a permanent address in Berlin.

Art education

  • Academy of Fine Arts in Lodz, Department of Graphic design and painting / Poland, MA (2000)
  • Film School, Department of Animation, Łódź, Poland (not completed) (1998)
  • Interior Design in Warsaw, Postgraduate Course, Poland. (2001) Forest education
  • ANFT Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, USA, Certified forest therapy guide, 2022

Therapy Education

  • Art-therapist (1998 - 1999) Art-Therapy Study
  • Therapist (2009 - 2013) Milton Erickson Institute, Poland


  • Group Exhibition MoNo, Berlin
  • Individual exhibition, Leśne szepty - Forest Whispers, Dom Asysty, Poland, Głuchołazy
  • Group exhibition and studio exhibition ID Studios, Berlin. Lange Nacht der Bilder, Lichtenberg 2023


  • Secrets of the Nature - Chrom Gallery project Berlin2022
  • UNBLOCK Fair Art Fair, individual and collective exhibition. Berlin, Group
  • exhibition and studio exhibition ID Studios


  • Kulturschöpfer, Berlin – Women- Art exhibition


  • Werkschau Lange Nacht der Bilder Lichtenberg 2022, Berlin, collective and open studio/individual. Berlin, Germany.

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