TwitterFacebookEmailRSS

2013 Everyday Outside Report

A friend of mine just celebrated his 50th with a surprise birthday cookout.  It was a fabulous outdoor party with a delicious assortment of potluck offerings, frisbees and soccer balls flying all over, good beer, and grand company. It didn’t rain, it sprinkled throughout the party, and our rugged Maine friends weathered the temporary increase in moisture. The birthday boy and I had a few minutes together and he asked me, “Are you still doing your outdoor thing?” I replied that I was. He then asked, “How many days in a row have you gone outside?” I didn’t know the answer to the question but replied that I’ve gone out all but one day in 2013.

It’s hard to believe it is July–the half-way point of our calendar year.  I blinked, and June disappeared.  My life feels like I’m in one of those Looney Toon cartoons where the calendar days flip by to show that time is passing.  I feel like my days and months are moving by that quickly. I can’t keep up with turning the pages of my calendar–the months just keep flipping off one by one.

June is in the past and we’re half way through 2013. Seems like a perfect time to check in and report on my status for the 365 Everyday Outside Challenge. I’ve gone outside for 181 days this year for at least 30 minutes.  Most of my outings were much longer–but all of them were for at least 30 minutes. Back in March there was one day that I was probably only outside for 20 minutes so that was my one missed day. For comparison’s sake, in 2012 I went outside for all but 8 days. I’m proud of the improvement and attribute it to the fact that regular outdoor time (and keeping track of it on busy days) is a habit for me now.

On a related note we’ve welcomed a few new people to the 365 Everyday Outside Challenge in the last few days and have many who’ve been doing it since the beginning of the year. I’d love to hear how you’re doing and how it is going.  Please drop a note in the comments section and share how it is going.

Wishing you all wonderful outings filled with mother nature’s surprises.  Below are some photos of a special walk at the Falmouth Audubon with my family and two cousins. We unexpectedly stumbled upon a field of peonies when walking in the woods. How delightful.

Happy summer!

peony1

peony2

peony3

peony4

peony5

 

Peaks Island Field Trip–My 40th Birthday Present

On May 30th, I turned 40. We celebrated early, with dancing and a birthday party, with friends and family, and with food and drink the weekend prior.  It was a lovely way to shift decades. But the best possible birthday celebration happened on my actual birthday. I was able to go on a field trip to Peaks Island with my daughter’s class. I couldn’t think of a better way to usher in another decade–a day spent on ferries, messing about with tide pools, humming to periwinkles to bring them out of their shells, building sandcastles, comparing various types of seaweed, eating lunch on a beach while observing seagulls and a pair of soaring osprey, and bringing 18 incredibly cute kindergarteners to an island off the coast of Portland.

peaks island lighthouses

peaks island lobster boat

peaks sign

peaks tide pools

peaks rocks

peaks lobster sign

It is hard to believe that in a few weeks I’ll be done with kindergarten… I’m so grateful that I could shift my work responsibilities around to make it possible to go on this field trip. I’m even more grateful for wonderful teachers who bring the magic of the natural world into the hearts of children who may not otherwise find it.

peaks mrs sherry

peaks anica ferry

I’m so grateful that the first forty years of my life have brought me to where I am today. I know another ten will slip by in an instant.  My son will be graduating from high school and my daughter will be 16 when I turn 50.  I hope to go on as many field trips as they’ll allow in those ten years… these precious days go so quickly.

Is 30 Minutes Enough?

I have been thinking about a simple question for awhile now. In fact, as I successfully completed my 2012 challenge to get outside for at least thirty minutes every day, I wondered if thirty minutes of outdoor time was enough.  The question came with me on my walks and lingered well after I returned home.

I contemplated upping the challenge to go out for at least 60 minutes a day during 2013. Was 30 minutes of my day a tough enough challenge? Would I have more to write about and would it be more interesting to my readers if I went out longer? Is 1/48th of a day a sufficient amount of outdoor time? Most days 30 minutes is pretty easy to accomplish—what would 60 minutes feel like when the wind chill is well below zero or when I had a fever of 102?  Would 1/24 of a day be twice as good? Does the ratio of outdoor time to indoor time even matter? And what does it mean to be enough? What is the core goal here?

The concept reentered my thinking in February after I presented at the Portland Trails 2013 Annual Meeting. I presented what I’m doing here in this Everyday Outside blog and what the 365 Everyday Outside Challenge is. The format only allowed me to share the essence of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.

(You can watch the video here.  My introduction starts at 43:22 and my presentation starts with a little nervous laughter at 44:46.)

After the presentation my mother-in-law said, “It seems like such a simple thing to do… I must already go outside for at least 30 minutes. I walk to and from the car a lot.”  Then I could see her remember that the only thing I don’t count towards my outdoor time is walking to and from the car. Before I started the challenge, I too would have thought that I was outside for at least 30 minutes most days, but as I began to keep track of my minutes, I was shocked at how much more I was going outdoors than I had in the past. The goal of not missing more than one day a month pushed me to make a conscious effort, and that made all the difference.

There were many days when I would not have gone for a walk if it wasn’t for the challenge, nights when I was about to crawl into bed after 10:00, having just slipped on my cozy fleece pajamas only to remember that that I hadn’t gone outside. Without the challenge, I wouldn’t have bothered, but with it, I had just enough of a push to get me out of bed and out the back door with my pajamas on. In 2012 I went out that back door in the wee hours like that more times than I could count because I was counting.

After the presentation, my husband thought that my talk made the challenge sound easy, and he knows otherwise. In 2012, when I started this journey to get outside every day, I would absolutely agree, that it isn’t easy. But it is much easier now than it was for the first year. People say it takes 21 days to form a new habit. I gave myself a whole year, and it is now certainly a habit that will last a lifetime. So far in 2013 I’ve missed only one day.

This habit has made me noticeably happier. I’m pretty sure my happiness is directly proportional to how much outdoor time I get. Maybe it is in part because my indoor time is connected to work, responsibilities, cleaning, cooking, laundry, and stuff that I have to do and which I rarely feel on top of. Outdoor time almost always involves stuff I really want to do. Maybe I am happier because I am getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D or more exercise or fresh air. Or is it possible that my increased happiness level is a result of a deep, sustained, everyday connection with the natural world? I don’t think I’ll ever know exactly what is responsible for making me feel happier but I know that my outdoor time has contributed significantly. I also know that the key is at least 30 minutes.  Anything less than 30 minutes would not be enough because most days 30 minutes isn’t sufficient for my nature connection.

In part I’m keeping my challenge to 30 minutes because I really want others to join me, and for the challenge to be an attainable goal that others want to achieve. My dog walking family and friends go outside every day and between 20-40 people have said they’re taking the outdoor challenge this year. So lots of people are getting outside regularly, but I know that most aren’t. Most days I get outside for more than a half-hour, but there are days when it is all I can do to make those thirty precious minutes happen, and those are the days when I need that time the most.  On those days 30 minutes is enough.

_________________

What do you think?  Is thirty minutes of daily outdoor time enough for you?

 

A Place Where Everyone Knows Your Name

I hang with parents. With the exception of a few sailors and a few colleagues, all of my friends are parents. And most of the time, when I hang with parents, we’re with our kids. Whenever I go to the pond, active families are skating their hearts out, and not just the kids.  Neighborhood parents are playing too, not just watching from the banks (or from the car) but in the thick of it, often playing as hard as the kids.  I love this city.

Yesterday we bought new hockey sticks at Play It Again Sports–we received great help from two of the men in the hockey department. They took the time to show me how to tape the kids’ sticks and truly seemed to be interested in getting as many kids skating as possible. I have observed that when kids (and adults) hold hockey sticks it improves their skating. Both of my young skaters have improved greatly this year, and I notice a difference when they’re holding sticks and when they’re not.  Maybe it is that they’re leaning forward more and maybe it is because they’re playing and thinking less about what they’re doing and more about how to get the puck.  Whatever the reason, it works, and I strongly recommend buying some. I learned that the stick length, when wearing shoes, should be from the floor to the tip of your nose–then, when you’re on skates, it will be the right height.  I bought my kids’ sticks a little longer with hopes that they’ll last more than one season.

After making our purchases my kids, a neighbor’s kid, and I walked to the pond to skate. The sticks instantly became guns–of course! As the afternoon wore on the guns became axes for cutting down the cattails surrounding the rink and they were used for playing hockey too.  My daughter even said they helped her balance.  We skated until the only light on the pond was from the streetlight.  The kids really didn’t want to leave the ice and in fact, I had to get stern with them to get them off of the ice—it was after dinner time and well, dinner still had to be made after the walk home.

As I mentioned before, we saw some friends at the pond.  Words cannot describe how lovely it is to show up and be known—even when it is simply at the pond.  An impromptu play date for grown ups!  How awesome!

Some other great uses for hockey sticks and ways to enjoy the ice for all ages.  Check it out!

130203 josh pulling three kids

130202 wren with hockey stick

130202 henry hockey

130202 ann and mattie

130202 annie on bank with stick130202 charlie and henry sticks

Do you have places in your community where you can show up and find friends?  Do share!