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Walking Home

We have one car.  It’s all we can afford right now.  Most of the time I feel pretty badass that we drive a 1993 beat up Honda Civic.  Sometimes I’m pissed that we don’t have two cars (like all of our friends) and today was one of those days.  I wanted to drive my daughter to school and get back to work.  Most of the time I get to use the car while my husband rides his bike.  This morning he needed the car to arrive on time to steel-drum band practice at my son’s school and I was left to get my daughter to school.  I wanted to drive but I decided we’d walk.  It was really cold outside and the idea of walking about 3/4 of a mile with a little person was not how I envisioned spending my (at least) 30 minutes outdoors.  It’s one thing to go outside when it is about 10 degrees when you’re moving fast, and another with a slow poke five year old at your side.  But, we prepared to do it and after the crazy effort to find everything we needed (readers without kids have no idea how hard this is…) we went to put her boots on.  The boots, we soon discovered, were really, really wet.  It took a minute, but we remembered that she joyful wore them into the ocean last weekend, the same day I went swimming in the ocean, which kind of made it hard to tell her to stay out of the water… Anyway, five days later, the boots are still soaked.  I threw them in the dryer and we snuggled instead.  It was lovely.  It meant for a later start to the work day but it was so much nicer than taking what would have been a very long journey to get her to school on our own two short legs…

Today, I spent the morning working at a coffee shop and walked home.  It was just a walk, on busy streets, nothing really special about it.  But,  later in the day, I ran an errand in the car.  I noticed a significant difference in my awareness of details–everywhere.  I guess I haven’t been driving much lately.  I have no idea if this awareness is connected to this new journey of mine but it sure felt like it was.

Changing the routine

Four days in and I am shocked at how good it feels to be outdoors every day.  Actually, for the record, I was outside every day during vacation too (all but one day in fact).  It makes me think that in the recent past, I went outside a lot less than I thought I did…  I am a busy full-time working momma of two incredible children.  It makes it hard to find time to exercise and it sometimes makes it hard to find time to get outdoors every day.

This morning, my legs felt dense and lethargic and it was really cold outside–about 10 ° F.  I considered going for a run but decided just to walk instead.  It was the right decision because I think there are things I would have missed if I was running.

I stopped to photograph this tree:

While setting myself up to take the photo I saw quoted the familiar Robert Frost poem on someone’s grave stone:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

It gave me pause.  As I continued on my walk I hesitated at the corner I normally turn on to head down into the woods.  I know it sounds cliche but I went a different way.  I went up a hill through the  cemetery within walking distance from my house.  I had a pretty eyeopening and thoughtful experience looking at clusters of trees.  Check these out:

And these:

And one more:

I know what you’re thinking… This gal’s got a thing for trees.  It’s true.  I do.  I totally do.  But, take a closer look at those photos.  Look at the arc of the tops of the clusters of two or three trees.  If you only look at the top branches of these trees, you might think that you were looking at a pasture tree–one tree that has spent decades growing in a field totally free from the influence of other trees.  They reach out to gather sunlight instead of up which they would do if they were in a dense forest or out to the side if they were on the edge of a forest–it’s all about getting light.  Notice how these clusters of trees have fewer branches on the sides of the tree facing the nearby trees and more on the opposite side.  Also, notice how the arch of the canopy of these two or three tree clusters is like that of  a solo pasture tree.  I have so many questions about why they formed this way and how exactly they influence each other.   Do they happen to share DNA or are they simply forming themselves that way to most efficiently reach the sunlight?

The astute reader may be asking questions about the first tree, the birch.  I have some information about that tree… A year or so ago a smaller birch tree snapped in a storm.  Guess which side.

On days like today I always think of my grandmother saying, “It doesn’t matter how cold it is as long as you dress appropriately.”  Wishing each of you a great journey outdoors–no matter how cold it is!

 

 

 

 

The Hardest Part

The hardest part about getting outdoors is that first step.  Once I’m outdoors, or my kids are outdoors, it is easy to stay–to keep walking, keep gardening, keep doing whatever it is I set out to do.  Almost every time I take that first step I’m immediately rewarded with that first deep breath of fresh air and I instantly feel more alive.

Today it was much colder.  In fact when I went on my walk it was 24degrees F with a windchill of about 14 degrees.  But the skies were blue and the sun filtering through the trees was breathtaking.  I wish I was a better photographer–but here are a few shots I took.  Enjoy!

Day 2

Just returned from a morning walk outdoors.  I jumped out of bed intending to drive to Mackworth Island–about 2 miles from where I’m staying this holiday week but my car was blocked in so instead I walked down to the .5 mile (or so) town landing beach and walked back and fourth.

I was outside for about 40 minutes: walking, yogic breathing, looking at beach treasures, and breathing in the sunshine streaming through the clouds.

It has been easy to get outdoors this week.  I’m staying with my in-laws and husband, we’re near the ocean, and the weather has been lovely.  Reality will set in and this will become more challenging.

Taking the Plunge!

Here we go… I’m taking the plunge.  I’m starting this blog with my words, and by jumping into the Atlantic Ocean on New Year’s Day.  I’m doing it all to document my journey to go outdoors on a regular basis.  By regular, I mean spending at least 30 minutes outside every day for a year.  I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, mostly on solo walks in the woods near my Portland home.  My work as an outdoor education curriculum specialist has the underlying goal of connecting children to the natural world.  I believe most humans are becoming more and more disconnected from nature and this worries me.

So, I’m doing this for my own health. I’m doing it for my children.  I’m doing it because I should be able to walk the walk and cultivate my connection to the natural world.  If I raise some awareness and encourage a few others to get outdoors more regularly–then that would be amazing.

But I need some ground rules.  Mostly to keep me honest and true to the mission of my goal.  I’m guessing that when the weather is truly horrendous and cold, the rules will be really important.

What counts for outdoor time?  The obvious activities like walking in the woods, on a beach, or along a river certainly count.  But there are some things that are not so obvious.  Exercising outdoors, gardening, hanging out with my kids outdoors, shoveling the walk, riding my bike to and from my son’s school (over a mile away) all totally count as outdoor time.  Working on my boat in the yard will count if I ever bring the boat I bought for $50 home as will racing sailboats on Casco Bay.  Walking to the car several times (even if the walking added up to 30 minutes)–does not count.  Standing on the side lines of a kids’ soccer game doesn’t count (more about this in another blog entry). If, on the other hand, I am exercising around the field on which my son is playing, then this does count.  My work includes taking groups of students outdoors–at this point, I’m going to say that this does count as meeting my 30 minute requirement.

For the entire year, I’m going to give myself 12 days when I do not have to go outdoors for 30 minutes.  I’m guessing illness or family expectations might keep me indoors but I’m not going to let the weather.

In general, my blog entries will be like Facebook posts–short and sweet with occasional pictures thrown in.  I have two children and work full time.  Life is full and wonderful and I don’t want the goal of this mission to fall short because I can’t keep up with the blog.  I’m hoping to write once a week but will probably post photos or brief updates on my outings.

Here’s what I did to take the plunge today:

We’re staying at an amazing house that my in-laws rented near the Falmouth Town Landing.  This morning we heard some loud cheers outdoors and looked up to see a handful of people getting out of the ocean after taking a plunge.  My husband and I were setting up this blog when we heard the squeals.  Without many words I decided that I had to do it too.  I found underwear that looked like a bathing suit, and headed down to the beach. With my kids and husband watching, I stripped off my clothes and winter boots!  It is ridiculously warm here in Maine today–in the mid 40s but it was still a thrill.  I also spent hours with my kids and my son’s friend on the beach messing about with little streams of water, ice, sticks, and sand.  They even had a picnic lunch on the beach.

One down.  364 more to go.