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  • Writer's pictureMary Lawrence

Return to Nature

Winter is upon us, and for many of us that often means a time to hibernate. Staying inside where it's cozy and warm, wrapped in a blanket with a hot cup of tea and a good book is the essence of comfort during these frigid days. While it's tempting to stay bundled up inside until the spring thaw, let me invite you to brave the cold to witness the magic of this winter wonderland.

I love getting outside for a walk just after a snowfall. It's a joy to see tracks in the snow and imagine who was there exploring before me. For the crows, bluejays, hawks, geese, ducks, seagulls, squirrels, rabbits, and chipmunks who live nearby, this is their home. And this is my glimpse into it. I see the snow white canvas as a story unfolding, and mine to discover when I make the effort to engage with it.

But we don't always take the time to do so. In fact, exploring the natural landscape is not something everyone makes time for, whatever the time of year. This is somewhat a generational phenomena as we grow more "technologically advanced" and removed from the natural world. In the article Why Fear of Big Cities Led to the Creation of Summer Camps, Natalia Petrzela writes that parents are becoming concerned that “[a] new generation of children… were missing out on the character-building, health-promoting experiences of hardy rural life: some even mentioned the peril of ‘dying of indoor-ness.’” We've become conditioned to see Nature as separate from us, and something we only explore during "summer vacation," or whenever it's convenient to do so.

I invite you to challenge this notion of "dying of indoor-ness" by getting outside on these chilly winter days. Barring any health issues, try taking a walk in your neighborhood, or visit a local park or wooded area where the path is safe to walk. Dress in layers with hat and gloves, and be sure to have appropriate footwear with traction. Breathe in deeply and fill your lungs with the cold, crisp air. Swing your arms as you walk and take quick steps, walking briskly to warm yourself up. Within 10-15 minutes, the chill will recede and you'll begin to feel your body heat. If you have the leg strength and the snow isn't too deep, try forging your own path. Feel your muscles work against the resistance of the snow, pausing to catch your breath when necessary. You'll soon find this exercise to be invigorating, and you may even look forward to the next opportunity to get outside.

Or you can simply go outside and observe. Notice the sounds of birds chattering at bird feeders, squirrels warning each other of predators in their midst, or geese flying in formation overhead. Observe the crunch of snow underfoot and the glass-like shattering of ice. What else do you see and hear? This exploration can become part of a meditation that changes every day as the season unfolds. Before you know it, Spring will be here and new sights and sounds will greet us.

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