The key to seeing wonders outside (Outdoor Diary)

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I used to hear friends talk about the crazy wonderful things they were spotting outside and wonder how it was I was missing out. Why didn’t I see that stuff? Were they trying harder? Going places I didn’t want to go? Getting up in tbe middle of the night to do it?

And then one day I stumbled upon their secret by accident. And now that I’ve figured out the trick to seeing wonders outside, I just can’t stop.

  • It’s not that hard
  • It doesn’t take any extra work
  • It does take intention

Listen now!

Some of the good stuff:

[00:35] Yes, I’m an early riser

[01:32] This morning experience changed my perspective

[02:12] All I had to do was take this step

[02:31] Yes, I missed stuff

[03:03] But now I see this stuff, too

Connect with this episode:

Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

I’m an early riser.

It’s something that was ingrained in me during those homeschool days as a kid. I don’t remember what time I got up, but I do remember sitting down for piano practice at 6 a.m., during my teen years, so maybe I was getting up at 5:30 a.m. When I lived in D.C. i started my days at 6 a.m. or earlier.

As an adult I worked an east coast schedule regardless of what time zone I was living in. So that meant for the entirety of our life in Alaska, I was up at 4 am and starting my work day at 5 a.m. And even though I no longer have that job, it’s still a habit I keep. I just like getting up early.

For years I would get up and start my indoor day without a thought to what was going on anywhere but under my roof. In the early morning light of summer I would sometimes sit in my hot tub for a few minutes after my daily stretching routine. But it wasn’t for any special reason other than it felt good.

And then one day, instead of simply starting my day, I happened to look outside and up at the sky. And what I saw took my breath away — there they were, the northern lights, the aurora borealis, dancing across the sky in visible bands of green, silently flexing and moving between me and the stars. I stopped what I was doing and jumped into the hot tub to catch the show for as long as I could.

And the next day I looked up again. Another show. Another early morning set of lights.

The day after that there was no aurora, but there when I looked up I saw brilliant stars. I stepped out on my porch for a minute or two to take them in.

Since then I do not miss a chance to look up in the morning darkness to check the sky. Are there clouds? More often than not, there are, so there’s nothing to see. But when there aren’t, I see a blanket of stars rewarding my habit, and every now and then an aurora show worth stopping everything for.

Over the years we lived here friends would say they saw the aurora, I figured I missed it because I didnt take the time to go drive out into the mountains and I never stayed up very late. What I didn’t realize was that the real reason I never saw it was that I simply wasn’t looking for it. All of those moments were missed, simply because I didn’t bother taking the time to look.

I don’t want to miss anything else because I simply failed to look for it. But it’s so easy to make that mistake, to get caught up in life and forget to take the time, forget to just look up, outside the window.

This week I got to witness another brilliant light show from my hot tub, a reward for remembering to check the sky before I poured my coffee. This opportunity felt rare — it’s been awhile since I’ve seen the lights, and we’re at the time of year where first light is beating me out of bed. The lights are most visible when it’s darkest, so I almost didn’t even bother checking for them this time. And yet because I did, I caught one of the best displays I’ve seen in the last year.

It got me thinking about this simple truth: the key to witnessing wonders outside is to simply look for them.

As I took a walk through the woods later that same day, I made a point of hunting for quiet signs of spring. The loud, brazen things are easy to see. But I want to note the small moments that require a little more.

By looking around I found the start of small buds on the tips of a few bushes. I noticed some fuzzy moss dangling on some tree branches. I saw that a pool of ice had melted, leaving a ring of white dust against where its edges once sat. I watched a wood pecker, the first one I’ve seen this year, hop up the side of a trunk looking for a snack.

Maybe these things arent wonders in your book, but they’re wonders to me. And each and every one of them required that I take the time to observe, to look around, to intentionally note what is going on around me.

You can see an aurora photo from this week’s show on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram, and I want to see your photos, too. Share them with #humansoutside365. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.

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