I'm Australian. I grew up as a child on the beaches of Sydney exploring rock pools, staying out after dark in the bush across from my home and exploring every part of the world around me. Then we moved to Toronto for the majority of my teenage years and we lived close into the city in an area called Lawrence Park and I went to high school in Rosedale. I felt lost there for a while - and it was only in my first summer when I went to summer camp in Northern Ontario that I realized that Lake Temagami, the Northern Lights and the tall conifer trees were really my home. It was then that I realized that I was happiest in nature and that I was counting down the days until summer until I could leave the constraints of the city.
I am at home in nature - and it's true even in Chicago.
I look for every opportunity to get outside and explore. I spend the entire Spring to very late fall outside every single day - hours upon hours outside working with my flowers and plants. I love how my whole body can recalibrate watching a big thunderstorm and listening to each individual raindrop fall. My four children and my husband count rabbits that we see over the course of a year (haven't seen one yet in 2021 but we're looking every day) in an effort to be present and aware of nature's beauty around us. We drive by our local lagoons daily on our way to the grocery store or running errands to take notice of the deer, Canada geese and sometimes even the tracks of a fox . We track birds that we see in the Cornell bird app named Merlin Bird ID and we leave our bird identification books out on our coffee table for easy reference.
What if 2 hours outside was the new 10,000 steps a day?
I read an article in the Wall Street Journal last week stating that perhaps this was the case and that spending time outside could help reset our brains during this period of covid. I didn't need the Wall Street Journal to tell me this as I've known this for a long time but I do try to combine time outside with 10,000 steps a day when weather allows.
When I'm outside I breathe in deeply and try to connect myself to the trees, flowers, grass, birds, butterflies and water around me. I will focus on the lines of the mountains if I'm fortunate enough to be near any topography. I will focus on the tides ebbing and flowing if I'm on the coast. I will watch for tadpoles and hawks and I know most of the names of the dogs in our community. I listen for frogs in the summer and I'm still like a little girl when I see fireflies light up our evening sky. This week I was out exploring the winter coastline of Lake Michigan and saw the absolutely incredible sight of a 30 foot tall ice wave frozen in place - stopped in it's trajectory for a brief moment in time. And just like that the long winter here in Chicago seemed magical to me - and it felt awe inspiring to think of our beautiful Great Lake right there beside us with her frozen coastline.