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Here’s an edited transcript of this installment of Amy’s Outdoor Diary. Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.
Have you ever thought about what your life might look like in some alternate reality or alternate line of events? For example, what if you didn’t make that choice? What if, when the proverbial road diverged in a yellow wood, as Robert Frost wrote, you took the other path? What if, in those moments where there seemed to be no correct answer, just your best guess, you took one of the other options?
That question was on my mind quite a lot this past week. Maybe it’s all the running I’ve been doing as I prepare for my biggest event ever. Maybe it’s all the running I didn’t do and all the catching up on This Is Us I did instead as I spent the last three days resting to get over this awful summer cold my kids brought home from summer camp. Or maybe it was the thinking that was prompted by the film crew here shooting my family as part of a documentary on veterans and their caregivers. Any of those alone will make you think — and the combination is a lot.
Whatever the reason, as I crossed my 1,400th day in a row of spending 20 consecutive minutes outside every day, I was thinking about what life would like if I hadn’t have moved here to Alaska, or hadn’t decided to stay with my husband when things were really hard back in 2014, the events which inspired us to make that move. Or if I hadn’t woken up from my daze in the summer of 2017 and realized that nature was going to do a single thing for me if I didn’t make myself go outside regularly.
What if I haven’t started my Humans Outside 365 project? What if I ignored the inspiration to start this podcast? What if I did none of these things?
When I hit 1,300 days a few months ago, I talked in my diary episode about what spending all of that time outside has taught me. You can hear about that in Season 3, episode 24. But on the 1,400th day I was thinking about the gifts and opportunities given to me by this habit, the people I’ve met, the adventures I’ve had and, maybe most importantly, the way spending 1,400 days has me standing on the edge of something large right here, right now.
Do you ever have that feeling like life is this moment where you’re on the cusp of something amazing? I grew-up on the beach, so you’ll have to forgive the ocean metaphor here. But I spent a lot of time – I mean a lot – watching waves come in and out and being in them as they rolled, and I see the patterns and pulse of life like those of the waves. Waves do this thing as they swell, right before they break. They seem to be always moving except for this one tiny moment, where they at their peak pause for just a breath, or maybe just seem to, before they come crashing down into the sound. It’s this tiny breath, where they stand on the edge of their grand entrance. If you are body surfing or boogie boarding, it’s the exact moment where you want to be ready to catch the wave and ride it into the beach. Then, after the water reaches its farthest point in the sand, it moves back out again to make way for the next wave.
So often I feel that life works like that. It builds to something grand, rides itself in and then takes a breath as it goes back out again to make way for the next wave, the next thing. And in that moment right before the wave breaks is this feeling like you are standing on the edge of something large and exciting.
I mentioned we are part of a film on adults and their caregivers. Originally we were shooting for a film specifically about veterans, but then our story was rolled into a second, different film focused on something broader. It looks at my husband Luke as he deals with traumatic brain injury and other injuries from his military service, me as I help and walk alongside him, our kids, and two other families. The crew was here filming, and we drove them up to Hatcher Pass, a place that we love with these incredible mountain views. They used a drone to shoot us from above, and asked us to stand still looking out to this really gorgeous view as a shot for the film. Throughout the whole shooting journey, which started in early 2019, we’ve talked about how important getting outside has been to us.
As we stood there cuddling for warmth in the breeze, gazing out at the view and trying to ignore the drone, I felt that same old ‘edge of something large” feeling. In the past I’ve felt that because I’m about to start a big project, or I’m tackling a big goal, or I’m launching a thing or making a big move. I felt like that when we moved here to Alaska and when I headed out to a presidential fellowship I did in 2019 with the George W. Bush Institute, for example.
But here now, I think I’m feeling it around my 1,400th day outside because I know all of the gifts the outdoors has already given me, and the something large is whatever nature has in store for me tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that. It’s an openness and willingness to take each day as it comes, big or small, and experience it one step at a time. It’s receiving as gifts the good in the otherwise negative unexpected — like three days off from my running schedule to get over a cold. And it’s looking to each moment and change of season as small pieces of a large, beautiful puzzle.
If I had taken a different path, had not said OK to this outdoor focused life, would I have this perspective? Would I have found these gifts? Would I be who I am today? I don’t know the answer to that. Life has a way of working itself out — and I am grateful for every bump along the way to get me where I am today. I am grateful for this journey.
I hope your days outside give you this perspective and many wonderful others. As always, you can find my photos of my daily time – yup, even with my nasty cold – on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. Until next time, I’ll see you out there.