I’m not sure whether I have seasonal affective disorder or what—but during those long, cold winter months, I feel cut off. Cut off from what? Nature? It’s more than that. I almost feel—cut off from my soul.
I always forget just how many hours of my free time I spend outdoors when I’m able to. The dark winter months fill me with such nostalgia. It’s around the time that I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be warm—I mean to legitimately feel warm sunlight on my skin—that the pain of being stuck indoors really hits. The house becomes a prison, and my sentence—time away from nature—is far too long.
Thankfully, there is always a reprieve.
This week, spring truly arrived. The grass shed its lifeless color. Flowers poked strongly out of the ground. I set up my hammock and brought a notebook outside—I’m often inspired to write while outdoors. But I didn’t write anything. I just sat and enjoyed nature. Watched how blue the sky could grow. Felt the breeze cool my skin from the sunlight. Listened to the birds.
I was so overwhelmed by the peace of nature that I put on my running shoes and ran. I’ve been running a mile or two lately, but this time I decided just to run. I ended up running six miles, and it felt amazing. I didn’t feel like I was exercising. I wasn’t counting minutes or laps or thinking about burning lungs or aching muscles. I was enjoying the privilege of being outdoors. I smelled manure and fertilizer. It smelled delightful. I smelled early spring flowers. Even more amazing. On one section of road, tiny sprouts of green grass were peeking out from a deep pile of sand left from winter snow treatments. Life had returned. I heard barking dogs and playing children and music pounding out of wide-open windows of cars.
And then I came back from my run and called my dogs to my side, and the three of us sat in the hammock and listened forever to the sound of a bird. Maybe the three of us were channeling Thoreau, but there was something completely magical and tranquil about that bird. It calmed even the dogs.
I’m not sure what it is about nature, but on days like this one, it makes everything seem more reasonable. Bad news never seems as terrible when contemplated out in nature. Things Worried About never cause as much stress when out in nature. Maybe the outdoors helps us feel connected to that marvelous spirit or force or being from which society pulls us.
Earlier this week, one of my classes asked if they could have their class discussion in the courtyard outside. The day was overcast but pleasant, and the cool breeze calling them through the window seemed much more inviting than the stale air reeking from the radiator. I thought about my hammock and my dogs and my bird, and I smiled at them.
How could I say no?