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It was one of the first really cold days of the season. As we walked through the woods this week one day after school, the air temperature hovered in the mid-teens. I was there to check-off my outdoor time box after an incredibly stressful and hectic workday on one of the busiest days of my year. My sons were home from school, and I was feeling lucky that we made it outside before the sun set at about 4:30 p.m.
We were about to loop back towards the house when I heard Huck, my 9 year old.
“Mom, can we stay out a little longer?” he asked.
I paused as I took in the realization that this moment was exactly what I had been working towards. His words, I realized, were the embodiment of what I had wanted him to think and feel since the day I first started my outdoor habit in 2017. And even though I was in a hurry to get home to continue on with the one million things I had to do, I knew that there was only one available answer to this request.
“Absolutely,” I told him.
We continued our outdoor time another 20 minutes, double what I set out to do as my minimum. I checked back in with him. “Are you feeling ready to head back?”
“Yup!” he said. He had spent those 20 extra minutes parading down the path, hitting bushes with a medium-sized stick. It wasn’t an elaborate way to spend time, but it gave him joy after a day in his classroom. Watching him understand that being outside after school made him a happier person gave me my joy, just as the extra time breathing in that cold air and realizing that in that moment I had passed on to my young son an appreciation of what heading outside for a little bit of time can give you.
It also made me stop and ponder whether I was really rushing to go back inside for a good reason or if, like Huck, I could spare some more to wander and recover under those trees. I think we all know the answer.
That moment in the woods and the question he asked carried me through the rest of my busy week, too. On Friday as I sat through a day of pretty stressful classes, every fiber of my being wanted to run away. But instead I asked myself what I could to make it more tolerable. How could I make myself feel better right then?
The answer: take it outside. Since it was in mid-teens again, the best way to do that while also sitting still and listening was to head into the hot tub. And so that’s what I did. I wonder what the instructor would’ve thought about my method of self care in that moment. But I was able to pay more attention to what they were saying there than I was while sitting still inside my house. It was what I needed in the moment. I listened to myself and took that step.
Huck and I both put words and actions to a feeling we have taught ourselves since we started spending more time outside: understanding what we need and acting accordingly. For Huck on that after school walk it was not heading inside just yet and lingering on the path just a little bit longer. For me, the answer was found in understanding that what I really wanted was to put that class in the context of staring at snow-laden trees from my deck. Had the weather been good, I would’ve done that from a chair, since it wasn’t, the hot tub was the answer.
And so I wonder: what do you need that heading into nature this week can give you? Is it a pause? A change of perspective? The comfort and safety of simplicity? A moment to breathe? A chance to see something magical and beautiful?
Whatever it is you’re searching for, whatever moment or thought you need, nature can give you this week. For me it is a grounding, a release, a reminder of my place in this world. For Huck it was a chance to whack out the day. What will it be for you?
You can see photos of my outdoor time on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. And I invite you to share yours with me using #Humansoutside365. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.