Have you ever noticed that the darkest time of the year can seem like the brightest?
Before I moved to Alaska the idea of solstice meant absolutely nothing to me. I mean, I knew it was the shortest or longest day of the year, I guess. But it wasn’t personal. And then we moved here to Alaska just a few days before summer solstice, and everyone around us was celebrating and my reaction was something like “um, OK?”
Summer solstice is all well and good, but it’s winter solstice I really have come to care about. That’s because the dark can feel so, so dark. When the sun rises long after your day has started and sets well before it is done, you feel its weight in a way that can be hard to describe. Things aren’t just slower, you don’t just feel slower, but there’s a creeping heaviness and sluggishness to every decision, a distinct lack of motivation.
And so I have to make a decision. Because in the darkest days I can fixate on the darkness. Or I can flip it around and use it as a highlighter. When the darkness is deepest, you appreciate the light the most.
When I look for the light in the days of darkness, I see and appreciate it in ways that I never could when it is plentiful. I see how it reflects on the mountains, trees and snow. I am wowed by its purples and pinks as it rises and sets. I see it in ways that are new and different.
And I don’t just mean that about the actual, literal light. It’s also true about the light of people, their actions, a friendly hello, a wave or a kind word. This season is one of tense hurry, and the world is so stressful right now. But even in there the light shines brightest thanks to the darkness.
The dark seasons are for fighters or maybe it’s that they force you to be one. It’s in these days that I am the most grateful for this outdoor habit, because there are plenty of days where it is what pushes me to get outside at all. Were it not for wanting to keep going on that habit day after day and not break my streak, there are days that I would let the cold, dark or simple inconvenience overwhelm me and keep me home, safely cozy on my couch.
But I have this habit to keep, and so I keep it.
Over solstice and Christmas we force ourselves into that movement even when we don’t feel like it. My days have included another holiday cabin trip with my family, this time over solstice. I taught myself a new kind of cross country skiing — skate skiing — to tackle. We went on our annual Christmas Day sledding outing as a family. And we hit the downhill ski area for an afternoon where I took a deep breath and tackled several runs over and over again until I no longer totally bit it on them. I’m not very good at downhill skiing, so that was a big deal for me.
As we creep closer to the first of the year, you might be contemplating new goals that you can tackle. You know what I think your goal could be and that building a daily nature habit is life changing. And of course I think that because it has changed and continues to change my life.
There are so many ways to head outside, and nature is right where you are, something we are going to be focusing on in our upcoming season 5. But if what you need is a little boost to get you out there — a carrot to chase if you will — and simply hearing me talk about getting outside daily isn’t quite enough, then I have a treat for you. I’ve made a series of outdoor challenge kits you can use to push yourself to get outside every day. There are three levels, and you can check out what they include at Humansoutside.com/challenge. But they each come with various rewards, a guide I wrote just for you and continued help building that habit over a full year.
There is no wrong or right time to start your outdoor habit. There is only now. And I hope whether you purchase a kit or simply join me on this journey, that you do make it a part of your daily life.
You can see all of my outdoor adventures, including a trip to a warm place my family and I are hoping to take soon, God help us, on Facebook and Instagram at humansoutside. And of course I want to see your outdoor time too, I really do. Share it with #humansoutside365. And until next time, we’ll see you out there.