The weather was beautiful today, after a string of cold, rainy, grey days it felt so good to be outside and we spent most of the day out there. The boys invented a new game on the trampoline called “ball war” involving more soccer and volley balls then I ever knew we owned, and a lot of hooting and laughing (and no injuries, thankfully. This game seems to be played boys against balls somehow, and I’m not arguing.)
Flora loves being “ow-side” more than anything. She happily putters around the backyard, finding stray toys, digging in the dirt and occasionally begging her brothers for her own turn on the trampoline (ball war not being quite her speed,) and I even managed to get a little work done. Do year hear the sound of trumpets in the distance? We even hauled the homeschool books outside and did our work on the picnic table. Glorious spring!
I have been thinking a lot lately about getting outside- about our values as a family to be out exploring and discovering under the great blue sky. I know they learn so much when we are out in the natural world- really out in it, not just playing ball war on the trampoline. And I know how essential regular nature time is to our family’s well-being. But somehow this is way harder than it sounds. At least for me.
Obviously on a day like today, it is easy. Who wouldn’t want to be outside on a day like today? But I was feeling a little less keen when the temperature was just above freezing and the rain was whipping against the windows. I aspire to be someone who gets out no matter what- regardless of the weather. They say “there is no bad weather, just bad clothing,” right? If I just layered us up in our woolies and rain gear, the wind and rain should be no excuse. I know that. But still.
I know that once I get out there, regardless of the weather, my head clears and I am a happier mama. I know that a walk outside is balm for my soul- yet I still tend to drag my heels. I am like that dubious toddler that has to be coaxed into the bath with soothing stories about how much fun they will have in the water, and then coaxed back out again when their toes start to get wrinkly. In my head I know that the sky and the air will be like warm bath water to my tired psyche, but I can usually find a million reasons why I should just stay inside today.
This winter was hard for that. Homeschooling my boys and chasing a very busy toddler meant that by the afternoons I was just desperate for a little peace and quiet. When my big kids would head out to play, I wanted nothing more than to collapse on the couch with a cup of tea, not follow in my children’s boisterous wake.
I did get outside, usually with the coaxing of my chirpy cheerleader Flora- bringing me her outdoor gear one piece at a time and then mine – “Mama hat?” “Mama boots?” and leading me to the door. I was thankful (and not, at the same time- the cup of tea was always beckoning as loudly as the toddler,) but we would stick to the usual routes- a quick walk down the driveway, maybe a short trek through the little loop trail, then back home quickly for that cup of tea. I was outside, but I wasn’t really out in it. You know?
But I really want to be out in it. I want my children to feel truly at home outdoors, to feel nurtured and at peace and full of wonder and delight out there in the woods. And so do I. I love learning about plants and trees and animals. I love to read field guides for fun. I collect stacks of books about edible plants, and exploring nature with kids, and bird behavior, and animal tracking. It’s just that I often read them inside by the fire. Ahem.
So this spring I want to change that. I want to be less of an armchair naturalist and actually get out in it more. To lead my kids past the trampoline and the edge of the lawn and explore a little. To look at the sky more. To learn some more bird calls. To finally start that nature journal I’ve been wanting to start for years. To get just a little bit more hardcore, if only in the safety of the backyard and the close-by woods.
I am excited to see where our little nature adventures take us, and what we discover while we are out there. I don’t expect anything too earth shattering- there will be no extreme wilderness expeditions or survival camping adventures just yet- and we are unlikely to discover a new species of lichen or publish any papers on northern Canadian bird habitats. We’ll just be going out a little more, and making a habit of getting out in it despite the weather, or the kids moods, or how much quality learning time we have managed for the day. Just us outside in the back yard. Getting out there. And that’s good enough for me.