Friday, June 18, 2010

"To sit in the shade on a fine day..."

"...and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment." ~Jane Austen

Where do you turn to for peace and quiet? When your brain is numb with stress, when tasks that were easily handled along with a multitude of chores now seem to take hours even with a focused concentration. What do you do (besides sleep!) when it seems your brain is over-thinking and you are no longer following along with it? I go outside. Alone. I may go for a walk in a park-like setting (not in a city!), I might just lie in the grass watching the sky, or I might climb up a tree. But I go outside. It clears my head, makes me focus on things that are much bigger than me and my (mostly) silly little problems, and my mind slowly settles down. I often bring my journal with me and just write. I write whatever is on my mind, what I see in front of me, a good idea for a story, anything. I absorb, I write, I breathe, and it calms me. Whenever I'm feeling stressed, I have this incredible desire to be outside. To get away and just relax. Now, yoga has become another manner of de-stressing for me and I am excited that one day I'll do yoga outside. What could be better?

Recently, my desire to get outdoors led me to some interesting articles. (Hold on, I might wander a bit, but I'll get to the articles, I promise). I was thinking (while sitting at a desk desperate to be outside in a park with my journal, all by myself) about this behavior and how it seemed like forever since I had really been able to get outside. I really began to love the outdoors when I was 5 and we moved to a house in the mountains with a huge yard, fruit trees, some woods, caves, and lots of wild animals. I spent most of my time outside in a tree or under a tree writing and sketching to my heart's content. I never wanted to be in the house. I loved to read outside in the open field, getting lost in the book and feeling lost in the field at the same time. It occurred to me while sitting at the desk that I haven't been able to really do that since I was a kid. And I've been craving it like mad.

Thinking about this natural world I grew up in and wondering if everyone felt that way, I came across an article on preschools in the northwest U.S. states. (Check it out here) They spend all of their class time outside. Outside. This is the way of things in Europe but here in the U.S., it's rather new. There are no structures academics yet; after all, it's still preschool. But the instructors contend that they are learning so much more by being outside instead of trapped indoors all day being force fed math. They get creative and learn how to settle fights among themselves. No matter the weather (they've only missed one day when the snow was too high to walk in), the children are appropriately attired and accompanied outside by their teacher. And they love it. The article led me to the book "Last Child in the Woods" by Richard Louv, which I am currently reading. Now, there is a really good critique of his work here, but overall, I see his points. And I'm hoping some of these schools open up here in Western PA. Obviously, I can do a great deal of outdoor activities on my own with my eventual children but for them to be with their peers? Priceless. Check out the book if you can.

Around the same time, I came across a new blog post by Roger Ebert (who has an excellent blog, by the way) about the quest for frisson. He discusses his use of the internet and Twitter and how it's made us wired for the next buzz, essentially. We are constantly online to learn or do something more and more exciting. Our attention spans are decreasing (I've definitely noticed this in myself) and we just want more, faster. I have to say, this is exactly when I'm feeling the most overloaded and when I need to escape outside. To slow down and focus on one thing at a time. I wonder if this rewiring is beneficial in the long run or not. And when my eventual kids are begging for another hour on the video game system instead of going outside...No, scratch that. I hope that we integrate many interests into their young lives so that they enjoy a variety of activities without spending time on only one. And can enjoy it without me forcing them (too much of a positive hope?). After the Golden Rule, the 2nd Golden Rule should be "everything in moderation".

Well, it's Friday afternoon and soon enough it'll be time to head outside! Enjoy the weekend.

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