The Change Is the Crisis; The Path Is Outdoors

“When you realize the setback is the path, the game changes.”Mastin Kipp

Meditations in Motion

Trails have been my friend lately.

I wrote recently about my struggles with running. I had some good outings this week and some shaky ones, but I avoided tears in the middle of a run, so I count that as a win.

My problems, for some reason, do not extend to trail running.

When I run on trails, I am nimble, leaping over rocks and roots, barreling down the declines and powering up the inclines. At least in my mind.

When I run on trails, I don’t worry about time, distance, or stride. I don’t know what my heart rate is, or my cadence, or how much farther I have to go.

I just play and have fun.

Meditations in MotionSpring is a wonderful time to be in the woods.

I was going to write that it is the best time; you can see the forest come alive again. Then I thought about the adventures I have had there in other seasons, and I am not sure if I can say definitively that spring is the best. They are all outstanding.

Science is beginning to corroborate what we have known intuitively for a long time: being outside, surrounded by greenery just feels good.

Alpha waves, the type of brain waves we achieve when we meditate, pray, or do yoga, increase in natural surroundings, as opposed, for example, to walking down a busy street or sprinting around the track.

Studies show that crime and acts of aggression decrease in housing projects where more trees are planted.

It is easy to believe being in nature lowers heart rate, stress levels, and blood pressure, but did you know research shows it also improves short-term memory, reduces inflammation, and helps your ability to perform creative tasks?

We are hard-wired to spend large amounts of time outdoors.

So why don’t we do it?

Meditations in MotionHere in the United States, we theoretically glorify the wilderness but spend, on average, only 7% of our time outdoors.

For children, the data is even worse. Kids spend an average of just 34 minutes (a little over 2% of their time) outside each day. Compare that to an average of over 7 hours (for children ages 8 – 18) of screen time.

When asked to describe the reason for not spending more time outside in nature, one survey reported the following responses: work obligations, health concerns, lack of time, lack of interest, weather, bugs, and logistics. Really. Bugs.

Here is the thing: we don’t appreciate what we don’t see. Conservation efforts are a struggle in America because we don’t get outside enough to experience the benefits of being in nature.

Meditations in MotionIf we want to save our forests, we need to get our kids outside to turn over rocks and uncover woodland salamanders. We need to permit them to scramble over boulders, climb on downed trees, and follow a spring to its hidden source.

We must take them to the nighttime woods after the first warm spring rain and allow the cacophony of spring peepers to surround them, let them thrill to the eerie sound of a screech owl in a hollow tree, and use a flashlight to find masses of frogs’ eggs in vernal pools.

We must allow, no, encourage them to get muddy, to paint each other’s faces with some good wet forest soil, to wear old sneakers as we explore a stream, to lie on our backs on the forest floor and look up through the green fabric of leaves to watch the birds or just see the clouds as they float by.

We must lead by example. We must get outside and play.

Architects who designed magnificent cathedrals understood well the feelings spectacular buildings were meant to evoke. A sense of awe makes us feel as though we are part of something bigger than ourselves. It makes us feel a sense of connectedness, of community.

Nature can make us feel the same sense of wonder, of empathy as those glorious monuments built for worship. But we must first go outdoors.

The Coronavirus crisis is forcing changes to our lifestyles. We have more time on our hands, more time with our families. Many of us are spending at least some of that time outside, hiking, walking, exploring, playing.

Maybe that is the current path.

Maybe that is the way more of us get to experience the fascination, the amazement, the open-mouthed astonishment nature can provide. The game has changed.

Let’s follow the new path. Let’s go into the woods.

 

You can find the places I link up here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

138 comments

  1. I agree 100% that we need to spend a lot more time outdoors. We have been sleeping with our bedroom windows open most nights for the past month and I’ve loved having all of those forest sounds come alive – water running through the creek, foxes barking with their creepy voices, birds singing, raccoons chattering, we hear it all. We even have an owl who calls out many times most nights and other than the wood pecker waking us up early on a Saturday morning while pecking on our cedar shake roof, we welcome all of the sounds.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I wish we could sleep with the windows open. It’s been going down close to freezing almost every night and the wind is crazy I am so ready for days of warm spring sunshine. I love the sounds you can hear from your bedroom at night. Except for that darn woodpecker, of course! We saw a fox and a herd of deer on our trail run this week, as well as woodpeckers and other birds.

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    • I am at home a lot of the time since I have retired anyway and I am not bored, but just the thought that I can’t go out to socialize, even if I want to bothers me. You have a good week, Veronica!

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  2. What an inspiring piece. Thank you Laurie. Kids and parents are getting out of the house around here…walking & riding bikes…but crazily, going to a place such as a park is banned as they do not want us to gather. So, we take what we can. Beaches are being opened for swimming and exercise but if anyone decided to sunbathe or relax..nope, off you go. And then if too many people come and social distancing is not practised the beaches are closed. Sadly but with necessity. Not liking some of what I am seeing via media coming out of some places in your country…sad. Thanks for linking up for Life This Week. Next week, the optional prompt is Life Stories 1. Hope to see you there. Denyse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank heavens we can still go outside to walk, run, and hike. Some people are not allowed to do even that. We try to stay in places that are not crowded. There is a bike path behind our house. When the weather is nice, we like to sit on our deck and watch the walkers, bikers, and runners on the path. I am not liking some of the things going on in my country either. What is wrong with some people? Thanks for hosting, Denyse. See you next week.

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  3. Such wise words. You are right, it is hard for those who have never appreciated or experienced the outdoors much to want to get behind protecting our forests and in our case, deserts. We have just begun running out into the desert, which is just a few blocks from our home. I really didn’t like it the first time, but have decided it agrees with me more than running in the neighborhood.

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    • Oh, your deserts are so beautiful! I loved those poppy photos you have been posting. I guess it will get hot where you live in a very short time.

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  4. Well said. We have the same issues here in Australia although I find that city kids are out a lot less than those that live on the coast where we are. Our national parks are currently closed and I’m looking forward to that being reversed – autumn and winter up here is the best time to go bush-walking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I bet you are glad you live on the coast and have lots of opportunities to get outdoors. Many of our national parks are closed but the local parks are open. Just the pavilions, restrooms, and playgrounds are closed. I hope you get out to go bush-walking soon!

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  5. We love the outdoors at our house, Laurie, though some of us more than others! My girls took me on a walk yesterday on the trail by our house. It runs parallel to a city street, but just off the beaten path, there’s a trail that takes you down by a creek in what feels like the woods. It was a bit surreal to be down there and still be able to hear lawnmowers from the houses across the city street, but it was also very refreshing! This was a great post, and I absolutely LOVE the quote at the beginning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My son takes his boys in a walk that sounds very similar to yours. Good for your girls for getting all of you out in God’s good creation! 🙂

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  6. There is something so uplifting about getting outside. I know I need to do more of it! I really don’t have an excuse to at least go outside on my patio because the weather is perfect right now but I seem to get busy with projects indoors and think I’ll do it later. You have inspired me!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I couldn’t agree more and so I mourn the closure of parks, beaches and trails especially here in California that eliminated the chance to heal outside from all that Mother Nature bequeaths is. I know being outdoors is my lifeline to sanity. Thank God my grandchildren have parents who bring them outdoors all the time and limits screen time.

    Susan Grace

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Susan, I didn’t realize trails were closed in California. I am so sorry to hear that. I hope you get to go out and enjoy God’s good creation before too long.

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  8. I am most myself when I am outside surrounded by trees and all the beautiful green that God has painted. There are enough parks near me that are open that provide some beautiful hiking paths. I am blessed that this outlet is still available.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so glad you are able to get out in God’s good creation and enjoy yourself on the hiking paths, Mary. Thank you for hosting. Have a wonderful week!

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  9. We all stayed in for the first 3 and a half weeks of lockdown as my asthma was bad. We have been out for the last 10 days, going to the river that is right by our house and we have LOVED being outdoors. We have spent lots of time in our garden and even slept in a tent in the garden over Easter. Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am glad you can get out and about a little bit now. My grandchildren have always wanted to sleep out in a tent, but I am not a camper. Good for you for tenting with your kids! 🙂

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  10. This is so important. I definitely see that my kids are calmer when we get time outside. We do this as much as possible, but it has been challenging because the playgrounds are all closed at the parks because of COVID. We get out in the yard, though, and go on walks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My grandsons are the same way. They need to go out and burn off some energy! Playgrounds are closed here too. Good for you for being resourceful.

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