I worked outside as an educator at the beginning of my teaching career, about five years. Day programs, overnight programs, and extended overnight programs. Living in tents or on boats or houses on islands, sleeping in sleeping bags, rising with the sun, and canoeing or sailing under the stars. In the summer it was the bugs that were intense. From late fall until early spring it was the cold temperatures, ice, and snow. But I loved it. I learned that I could tolerate any weather as long as I had great gear. Or as they say in Norway, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”
As I have gotten older I have also learned that inside can be pretty great too. Homemade candles burning, snuggly blankets, fire in the fireplace, warm beverages, diffuser going, and cozy wool socks. Cozy is good. I have had to make an intentional decision to find time to be outside each day or I would just cozy up and hibernate all day long.
Being outside feeds my soul. I just feel better when I am connected to the outside world. I enjoy feeling the elements around me. I enjoy experiencing the natural rhythms of the local environment. There are so many health and wellness benefits as well. Vitamin D levels go up. Exercising the way the body is meant to move – gardening, walking, biking. Improved concentration and sleep. Improved immunity. Even just walking can make a difference – check out this article from Harvard about Walking Your Steps to Health.
There’s also an inner resiliency and acceptance that comes from being a part of something bigger than ourselves when we are outside, especially in more wild environments.
Although we do not live in Minnesota or Maine our darkness and cold is real. Darkness from 5pm until 7am and temperatures that dip into the single digits with wind chills below zero. The darkness is the part that can be a challenge for me. I wrestle with it every year. An inner turmoil between loving the winter and detesting the darkness. This year I made the decision to love the darkness in a new way. In fact, to celebrate it as a time of renewal and reflection. To accept it as a blanket that is here to snuggle me throughout the shorter days.
I brought the stars inside with me more this year than any other year – twinkle lights in the kitchen window, in jars in the dining room, the upstairs hallway. Candles at dinner each night and a candle in the northeast corner of the kitchen as I cook. Fires in the fireplace. We are slowly making our way to Candlemas on February 2nd where we will read The Candles by Hans Christian Andersen, eat crepes, make beeswax candles, and celebrate the lengthening of the days. It is the halfway point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.
I also made the decision this winter to ensure that I get outside every day – both in the 4am darkness and in the afternoon light. Our daughters as well. It’s not always easy for the girls to get outside as their schools don’t provide opportunities during the day or they cancel recess the minute the weather changes to something that someone somewhere has determined is undesirable. We have to intentionally carve time when they get home each day. It’s not always easy to do that but we are working on it. The weekends are a different story.
Today we will be at the farm and exploring our own outside space at home for hours.
I know that afterwards we will all feel better, more connected, happier, and ready to sleep at the end of the day. How will you get outside today?
For more information on getting outside with kids every day check out:
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