Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.
The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.
When I first started my outdoor habit, I had never spent time going outside every day even if the weather was super challenging.
The entire point of that habit challenge — spending at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every day for year — was to see if I could even do it. And I knew that facing the outdoor things I found the most unpleasant like negative temperatures, or wind or rain that made me want to huddle inside and then going out in them on purpose for at least 20 minutes was going to be the worst part.
I didn’t have a specific plan for how to face them, I just planned to take it one challenge at a time. And I was ready to be grump, not like and do it anyway.
2,269 days ago when I started my outdoor habit, I didn’t know that in the midst of that challenging weather, in the mix of things I was ready to hate, I would find surprising points of gratitude. I didn’t know that even the things that are still my least favorite would have sprinkled into them things that are my most favorite. Life is a weird juxtaposition like that, I guess.
Gratitude is a healing practice no matter the time of year or the weather, but it might be especially on your mind right now, just as it is on mine. And so I want to take a few minutes to talk about some of the outdoor things I am surprised to find I am grateful for. These are three things that, had you asked me a few years ago I would’ve said something like “Haha no.” And yet here we are.
First, let’s talk about extremely cold days. It was -13 fahrenheit this morning when I first looked at the thermostat, which I have to warn you is nose hair freezing when you breathe weather. But there’s this spectacular thing that happens to snow in the low winter light when the temperature is this way, and I am so grateful for it because it is just so unbelievably pretty.
As the light hits the snow, it sparkles like crystal. It has a magical quality, and I can’t take my eyes off of it, like any second some kind of wonder is going to pop up over there. I am transfixed by it. And just for the record, 2017 Amy would NEVER.
Second, and this is going to make me sound really old, but it’s birds. I saw a meme awhile back that noted something like one day youve never noticed birds, and then next you look out your window like whoa dang that’s a black capped chickadee. And if that’s not the realest thing then I just don’t know what it is. One second I’m out here and don’t care about birds at all, and now here I am putting them on a gratitude list.
But hear me out on the bird thing for a second. Birds are a straight up miracle, especially in the winter. These tiny little creatures are out here defying gravity, flying through the air and somehow not freezing to death when it’s -14 out. I don’t know how this is possible, but there they are. And when I walk through the woods on a still snowy day I hear them twitter and tweet in the trees, and it’s this tiny little gift of life and hope. I just can’t get enough of it and I’m so glad they are in the world. And don’t even get me started on ravens and eagles.
To many native alaskans, the people on whose ancestral lands I live, the raven is both the creator of the world and a helper to humans. Other stories feature him as a trickster. And let me just say — yeah. Ravens have over 30 different types of vocalization, they are absolutely huge and when they literally walk down the street they look for all the world like tiny humans in bird bodies. And as for eagles, you will never convince me that they are anything but majestic and a sign of goodness and peace. When I see an eagle soar across my path, as crazy as it sounds, I feel like everything is going to be OK.
I’d love to be able to tell you that my final point of surprise gratitude is for the strong winds we so often have, but frankly yall im just not quite there yet on the wind love front so maybe next year. Instead the third thing I’m surprised to be grateful for are the naked trees in my yard. These used to make me angry because they are bare and ugly and a constant reminder sitting outside my window that it is just not nice enough outside for green leaves.
But over my 2,269 days outside I have learned that my bare trees are instead a reminder of the power and consistency of seasons. These tree friends of mine show green up their trunks and then burst to life with leaves when it’s time for the days to be longer and the weather to warm. When it’s summer they are full and happy, reminding me that I feel the same. When it cools and the colors turn, they remind me to get ready for the winter. Recently their branches were bent low, covered in heavy snow, and then the snow blew away and they rebounded back to their usual height.
No matter what I’m facing in life, my tree friends remind me that time moves forward and changes will come. They are a gift and I am grateful for them.
I hope you are finding points of outdoor gratitude now regardless of whatever season you’re in. You can see photos of my outdoor time on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. And I’d like to see your outdoor photos too. Tag me with #humansoutside365. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.