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. You’ve put into words how I feel when I run the trails. I grew up in the country and we played in the woods. Running the trails makes me feel carefree, like a kid again!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent thoughts, Laurie, thank you for the thoughts to ponder. I hope your state is allowing people to get out in the parks. Ours has opened some but closed the bathroom facilities in them so I guess it is wise to bring your diapers for the run through our park?! πŸ˜‰ Your post reminds me of the book I read called The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams. Have you read it? I think you’d really enjoy it. Stay safe and well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, you are allowed to run or hike in the parks, but all of the park facilities are closed (pavilions, restrooms, playgrounds, etc.) I have not read that book but now I want to. I am going to look it up. Thanks, Shelley!

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  3. Having a dog definitely helps get me outside all year long! But we try to make an effort to camp and hike and take advantage of our great state parks…hopefully that’s still possible this summer.

    Great reminders in this post, thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I totally agree with you about going outdoors and enjoy the health benefits that nature provides. I hope more people make time to be with nature going forward. Thanks for linking up with me on this Wellness Weekend. The next link up is on May 17. The optional prompt is Commitment. #WW2020

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  5. Nature is amazing, trails, night-time breeze, all of it, just gorgeous!
    Makes me happy to be aware.

    Moments for mindfulness in all things. You can find the beauty in all things.

    This is gold, in a time of need as well.

    Thank you for sharing! (:

    Liked by 1 person

  6. For now, for me, personally, I am mostly avoiding driving somewhere unless really necessary. I’m not sure I could run the same 8 mile route I’ve been doing one more time, though — and the other side of the road is even hillier!

    Glad you’ve found comfort in your time on the trails. Now, if it just got a bit warmer here . . .

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    • We do have a few different options from home, but we encounter many fewer people if we drive 3 miles and run on the trails in the State Game lands. I am soooo ready for some warm spring weather!

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      • For now I’m still staying at home. My guess is even the trails might be crowded. Although maybe not. There’s a park near me with trails, but I don’t even know if the park is still open. There’s a parking lot outside the park, but it’s small. Anyway, for now I’ll continue to stick to the neighborhood. Definitely getting boring. It’s not super big and once I leave it there are big hills on both sides.

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  7. “When you realize the setback is the path, the game changes.” What a quote!!!! That totally was the frame of mind I had during my knee recovery. I’m also very much embracing that same mindset with our current COVID-19 crisis. It’s scary and it has so many unknowns….but there is a lot of good that has come from it (family time, and at-home survival, etc.)….if only we can all hold tight and hang on to see things through to the other side. Thanks for another awesome, insightful post πŸ˜‰

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    • Yes! I thought the same thing when I injured my hamstring. I have been saving this quote since then (for over a year!). There is a lot of good that can come of this crisis, you are right. I hope we remember how much we all enjoyed spending time with family and outdoors after the crisis is over! Thank you for hosting, Kim!

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  8. Hear, hear! Being outside, even in small spurts walking around our subdivision, is a great way for me to clear my head. People make going outside such a big deal when in many cases all you have to do is walk out your door. And that’s too much effort? Must be those darned bugs. πŸ˜‰

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  9. I could not agree more, Laurie β€” I am 100% certain to feel better after a long walk in the woods or vineyards and I thank God every day that I live in an area where I can do just that, instead of in a high-rise apartment in the middle of a (formerly) crowded city.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jan, you live in such a beautiful location with delightful weather for much of the year, I can imagine it’s a joy for you to get outside as often as possible.

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  10. Weather permitting, I spend time outdoors each and every day, Laurie, and the glory of God’s creation never ceases to amaze and astound me. I do love knowing that where my grands are now living, there is lots of space for them to run and play outside, and my daughter does a great job of encouraging that. Hope more and more people will discover the inherent joy in being out in nature. Blessings!

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    • Good for your daughter to encourage her daughters to get outside and play! My son just texted me a photo of him and his 2 boys out exploring a nearby trail along a stream. It feels good to be out in God’s wonderful creation!

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  11. I sure hope what you are saying about people spending more time outdoors and gaining a greater appreciation is true. We camped every summer as a family and my parents instilled a love of nature in my two brothers and me. I feel sorry for kids who don’t have this opportunity. My friends who live on a small farm in the Finger Lakes region of New York participated in a program that brought city kids to the country for a week. The kid that stayed with them last summer was initially unhappy to be there but, by the end of the week, didn’t want to go home. He had no idea of what existed outside of his urban neighborhood.

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    • We were not a camping family but my dad was a hunter and fisherman. We didn’t have any brothers, so as the youngest daughter, he took me along with him when he went to the woods. The only things I ever shot at were bottles and cans but I did learn to fish and appreciate my time outdoors with him. Lancaster County, PA (where I live) hosts a lot of Fresh Air kids every summer. What a wonderful program!

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  12. I think that so many more people would benefit from spending some time outdoors, especially during these crazy times. Even just a walk around the neighborhood can do so much to change my mood. The fresh air really makes a difference.

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  13. At first I was like “oh I spend way more than 7% of my time outside” and I did the math for a typical work day and yep, I am definitely average.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. As kids we’d disappear into the woods after school and be so immersed in the nature and the wonder of it we couldn’t even remember if we’d gone to school earlier that day. I returned to trail running when it was so hot and I needed to train for MCM back in 2012. Since then I’ve been a trail regular. It is wonderful.

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  15. You know me and my boys spend more than average time outdoors and, in particular, in nature. We actually went on a 2 hour hike again today. It was so nice to have warmish weather and sunshine again. It improved my mood tremendously!

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  16. Have you heard of Forest Bathing? If you are interested, look up my friend and former Superintendent Rev. Beth Jones at Deep Green Journey on Facebook. I have to confess I appreciate nature in theory, in pictures and sometimes outdoors, but I am a “city girl” and can be squeamish about things. I am a beach girl! I was frightened by horseshoe crabs as a young child, based on their looks and the tail that I thought was a stinger. Now I think their carapace puts me in mind of a Klingon!
    Blessings, Michele

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  17. I love all seasons in the woods. They each have something different to offer. I’ll admit, the number of people in *my* park are annoying me. Today on a run, I could see four other people running on the road in front of me. Usually, I don’t see another runner. I kept needing to switch sides of the road to keep social distance. Later my family went for a walk at one of our favorite places. There were so many people we bailed. We went home and walked around our neighborhood. I’m torn. Part of me hopes all of these outdoor newbies stick with it when TJ Maxx opens back up and sports return to TV, the other part of me will be happy to see them go.

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    • I love each season in the woods too. I was originally going to write I like them all except winter, then I realized that my favorite trail run (one that I do each year) is in the winter (Phunt).

      I had to laugh about your “my” park comment. I feel the same way about the bike path below our house. It used to be a cow meadow and no one when there other than my dogs and me. It still seems like “my” meadow. What are all those people doing walking there? I know what you mean about mixed feelings.

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  18. I hate being stuck in the house. So I am driving. I still feel I’m being careful.

    I had an awful run today. I was done at 4 miles but dragged myself another 9 cuz I’m stubborn like that.

    I could not figure why it felt so tough and why my body felt so beat up.

    I think I’ve been walking so much on trails. Even some of my runs are on dirt. The ground felt so hard. It just May not have been my day. My marathon seemed easier.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! 9 miles is far to run when your are not feeling it! God for you. Actually, on Sunday, I had another meltdown at mile 4 of a 12.5-mile run. I did pull it together and finished but it was tough. Hope your next run is better!

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    • We are allowed to use the trails in parks. the facilities are closed (pavilions, bathrooms, playgrounds) but thank goodness we can still run on the paths and trails!

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  19. Thanks Laurie for your insight and words of wisdom. I think our children need to spend more time outdoors..playing and just being free. In our society today we are afraid to allow our children to be free..we are so worried about safety. Life is an adventure to be lived and explored. Nature reflects that freedom that we are all searching for..looking forward to your next post! πŸ¦‹

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  20. Hi Laurie – we raised our kids on a 2 acre bush block and they were constantly outside climbing trees, swinging, jumping, digging etc. I look at our grandgirls being raised in suburbia and they have outdoor time but it’s a much more santitized version. I’m often guilty of staying on the path rather than getting dirty on a trail, but I do agree that outside time is extremely good for our souls.

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    • What a wonderful way to raise children! We used to take our kids outside a lot when they were younger too. They called our nature hikes “death marches” but now they take their own children out and do the same thing! πŸ™‚

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  21. Lots of changes are being made and hopefully getting outside in nature is a positive one that will stay around for the longer term. What you say is right, people need to get outdoors and make the most of it, either running, walking, or even cycling. we have noticed so many families with young children out on our rail trail lately, as there are no sports on, no parties, no get togethers and so families are getting out with each other and having fun in their own backyard. Great words πŸ™‚ for #lifethisweek

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    • Yes, I hope so. My grandchildren are getting outside more often for sure. They are starting to like it better than their screentime. I hope that doesn’t change. Many more people are out on the bike path behind our house.

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  22. I love my daily forest baths!
    Around here, I see A LOT more parents with their kids outside, playing in the woods and exploring. It’s encouraging to see. I hope it stays that way after the virus.

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    • I was reading about forest baths when I researched this post! I had heard of them but never really understood all the details. Now I want to take a forest bath every day too! People are getting outside and exploring more here too. One benefit of the shutdown! πŸ™‚

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  23. After my retirement (2 years ago) I learned to enjoy more the nature and the hidden green parts of my city. My workouts are through the streets and the roads because I don’t want to risk some injury making trail but all my walks are in the country, also in towns near my city (Now I have planty of time).

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    • Hey, good to hear from you again! I hope you are doing well during the pandemic. We heard that Italy was hard-hit. I retired 3 years ago, so now I have plenty of time to be outside too.

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  24. I’ve been appreciating the outdoors more than ever these days as I’ve been stuck inside so much. Its so interesting to see that my toddler LOVES the outdoors, even though he doesn’t have any toys or anything out there yet. He just loves to walk around and explore.

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  25. I’m afraid I am a very indoorsy person. Allergies, heat, and, yes, bugs. πŸ˜€ Even as a child, I practically had to be pushed outside by my mom. But every now and then, planting flowers or spending time outside with the family is uplifting. I was probably outside a lot more when my kids were young. When my grandson is over and the weather is nice, we usually spend part of the time outside as he plays. We’ve had some “distanced visits” outside so we could see each other yet not share germs.

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  26. I agree with being outside which for me is a necessity if I want to remain sane or at least not go crazier. Some time ago I started treating myself to a day communing with nature on my birthday instead of going to a bar or out to eat and it was a change for the better. But the more people can get out the better they’ll feel any time. However, the great outdoors has been pretty crowded so I’m finding it harder and harder to be outside and stay safe, especially with so many park closings, but sometimes getting creative and rediscovering old places can be fun too.

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    • Ha! I need it to prevent insanity too! What a wonderful idea for a birthday present to yourself. I love it. My birthday is in January, so it’s not always great to spend time outdoors then, but maybe my half-birthday! Stay safe out there!

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  27. You expressed it perfectly- we need to learn by example. My husband and I love to hike and always took our daughter with us. By the time she was in preschool, she could go on hikes that were a few hours long and think nothing of it. Being out in nature was just a normal part of her life because that’s just how it always was with our family. She has cousins on the other hand that it was a struggle just to get them to walk less than half a mile away to go to a park when they came for a visit. The difference is their parents never took the boys out for walks, bike rides, or hikes on trails. It’s sad, really, how some kids are never shown the joy of being out in nature.

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  28. Dear Laurie … I am loving every minute outside these days … the sun, the breezes, the flowers blooming, the trees budding. God’s handiwork continues to shine despite so many other things becoming uncertain.

    What grace!

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  29. Laurie,
    Love this! It’s almost as if our human sin unleashed a virus, but God in His goodness flung open the door and said, “Step out into the awesome Creation I made just for you.” I tend to be outside as much as I’m able so it’s been fun to be joined by others…riding bikes, walking dogs, doing sidewalk art with chalk, even hunting for bugs lol. The outdoors inspire creation. If I ever have writer’s block, I know that a trip into the great outdoors will often cure that. Keep on runnin’ girl! Great post.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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    • What a wonderful visual, Bev! I love to picture God throwing open the doors to His creation for us! I enjoy stepping through the doors. I will keep runnin’! πŸ™‚

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  30. I was never what you would call an “outdoorsy” person. However, I have learned to embrace nature, and now that we live in a slightly more rural area, I’ve become so much more adventurous. We actually started our son in Scouts because neither of us had any experience with camping or survival, and I ended up as a den leader, so guess who got to learn right along with him?

    My husband laughs now, because when we plan our summer vacations, my ideas always include something outside in nature.

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    • Our boys did Scouts when they were younger too. Bill and I are not campers either. I like to hike and run in the woods but I do like to sleep in a bed! πŸ™‚

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  31. It’s so important to get outside! I was raised in the woods and grew up being out of doors as much as i could. I raised my daughters the same way. We spent as much time as possible outside. Now, I’m in my 50s and I still spend as much time as I can outside. I feel cooped up when I can’t get outside.

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    • I was the youngest girl in our family of girls. I guess my dad figured he would teach me to hunt and fish, since there were no boys. We spent a lot of time in the woods too (although the only things I ever shot at were bottles and cans). I love the outdoors too!

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    • Yes, you do spend a lot of quality time outdoors, Pam! My son in Steamboat told me they got 18 inches of snow in the past week. We were supposed to be there this week! 😦

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  32. I love the quote you open with, and I agree, time outside in nature always makes me feel better. It’s hard just now because we are only meant to go out once a day for an hour, which is less time than I would usually spend outside, and the weather here has been so nice, but I’m trying to make the most of the time I can go out.

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  33. I agree with all you say. I love getting into the outdoors and always wonder why more people don’t do it. My life always seems a bit askew if I can’t get out and spend time hiking. I used to love trail running but not doing that now due to knee issues. I loved reading about your experiences #lifethisweek Sharing

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    • I think more people are getting outdoors now during the lockdown. I hope they don’t forget how good it feels after life goes back to normal! πŸ™‚ Sorry to read about your knee issues but hiking is great too!

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  34. This is a great post Laurie – you know I’ll endorse getting outside and I hope it is not just a transient pastime, but a permanent change to people’s mindset. You could have used this post for Earth Day or a gentle reminder just before each Earth Day going forward.

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    • Thanks, Linda. You and I know how important it is to get outside because we do it! I think both of us would go crazy if we couldn’t go outside. I never thought about using this post for Earth Day. Rats! Opportunity missed! Maybe next year.

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  35. I love having yard work to do that “requires” me to be outside.
    And I think our Puritan work ethic alongside our 21st century inablility to function without noise and entertainment keep us inside where the “stuff” is.
    Everyday, I have to talk myself into my run, but I’m always glad for that time outside, and since I take the same path every day, I’m watching for changes that will tell me spring is really going to show up eventually.

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    • Yes, I prefer yard work over housework any day! So true about the “Puritan work ethic”. I feel guilty if I am not accomplishing something useful. I need to get over that! πŸ™‚

      I am hoping you find signs of spring sometime very soon!

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    • Oh, what a wonderful introduction to nature for your little girl! Teaching kids to explore is one of the best things you can do for them. Yes, more appreciation of nature and more time with families.

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