I’ve always loved the outdoors. Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy to curl up on the couch with a good book and a steaming cuppa but, generally, if I can be outside, that’s where I want to be. I think some people are just born that way, naturally gravitating toward the outdoors.
My firstborn, not so much.
As a preschooler, she would spend hours drawing, reading and solving puzzles with classical Baby Einstein music playing in the background. She was quiet, intelligent, thoughtful and mature beyond her years.
I always have — and still do — consider her a bit of an “old soul.”
When my second daughter came along less than two years later, she was a whirlwind of activity and emotion. Her highs were high and her lows were low, and one feeling could switch to the next in the blink of an eye. She was curious, energetic, and naturally drawn to the outdoors.
One cold spring day just before her first birthday, she stood at the window banging her chubby little palms against the glass. “Outside! Outside!” she demanded.
So I bundled her and her sister in coats and hats and we walked to a nearby tot lot. While I was helping my younger daughter down the slide, I looked up to see her sister walking down the sidewalk.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“I’m going home!” she replied, anxious to get back to her books and puzzles, much to her sister’s dismay.
Fifteen years later, and not much has changed.
As a child of the 70’s, I grew up in an era when kids not only wanted to be outside, but were expected to be. While my friends told tales of their parents demanding that they go outside and stay out until dinner time, my parents were less direct.
However, if my brother or I were found lounging around the house, we were sure to have a dust rag, vacuum cleaner, or dish scrubber thrust into our hands, so outside, naturally, was the place to be.
The kids in my neighborhood played tag, roller skated, skateboarded, climbed trees, explored the streams and woods, tied blades of grass into knots, rode our bikes all over the neighborhood, and caught frogs and fireflies until the streetlights came on.
Back then, being outside was synonymous with being a child.
Luckily, my parents preferred the outdoors as well. We spent many family weekends boating on the Chesapeake Bay, or camping at Lake Anna or Deep Creek Lake. We ate dinner on at our picnic table on the back deck, and my mother resisted a clothes dryer for as long as she could, preferring to hang our shirts and socks on the clothesline — not only for the crisp, fresh air smell of the clothes, but because she simply enjoyed being outside.
I took my childhood love for the outdoors with me to college. At Ohio University, I relished the warm spring days when professors opted to conduct classes outside on the college green. I routinely took my books and notes to the tiered lawn of the journalism school or the banks of the Hocking River to study, forgoing the stifling library setting at every opportunity.
As a group fitness instructor at the local gym, I convinced the owner to let me teach classes outside on the back parking lot, and I spent weekends exploring Stroud’s Run and rollerblading along the campus catwalks. Part of the allure of being an aviation major was that my classroom was often an airplane, the endless, open sky my teacher.
Even now, you won’t catch me running inside on a treadmill, no matter the weather. Rain or shine, hot or cold, wind or snow, I will be outside, breathing the fresh air, enjoying the elements, and simply feeling alive.
During the short, dark days of winter, I have reflective gear, knuckle lights and a headlamp to allow for running at night.
Thankfully, now that spring is almost here and the clocks have moved forward, daylight will become more plentiful.
Days will be longer, temperatures will grow warmer and, like a flower, I will blossom in these conditions, my happiness levels directly proportionate to the season’s extended daylight and warmth.