I don’t consider myself to be an outdoorsy person. I grew up playing outside, and since it was the 80’s, I got to roam. My brothers and I had a spot just past the tree line called “The Big Rock” which had, you guessed it, a really big rock where we would play for hours. Or what felt like hours. I remember a creek down the street that had a rock across it like a bridge, and I would find a big stick and dig out the most perfect, goopy mud. There was an old claw-foot bathtub way out back that we would play around, and I remember tiny little fish (turns out they were mosquito larvae) swimming around in it. But somewhere along the way I grew up, and while I always remember enjoying being outside, it became a smaller part of my life. Having children has brought me back to loving the outdoors, though getting out enough is still something I’m working toward. I get so caught up in all the things that need to be done, but when I take the time for us to get outside, especially in the woods, it’s like it sets everything back into perspective.
I have come to believe that we are connected to nature and that when we remove ourselves from it, it’s like there’s a part of us that remains dormant.
When I was pregnant with my son, my mother suggested a family vacation to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Now, growing up my father and brothers were (and are still) avid campers. My mother, while an outdoor enthusiast, never liked the thought of a vacation that required that much work (although I remember all the meal preparation she would do for them). She and my father started spending time in the mountains, not camping, but renting one of the tiny cabins that dot the roads up there. She thought we would love it, and my brother was also coming to town and hadn’t been up to the mountains in years. So I went along, albeit begrudgingly, for the adventure. As I recall, before we even went to the cabin mom thought we should do an “easy” hike up to Ripley Falls. I was 6 months pregnant with my son, and it was nothing like being 6 months pregnant the first time around. It was like everything happened more quickly and was amplified with my second. I (barely) made it to the top of Ripley Falls (which if you’re familiar with the area, really isn’t a difficult climb). It was on the way down though that I thought my insides were going to come out, and I started having tightness all across my belly. I sat down and proceeded to cry. I didn’t do anymore real hiking on that trip, but I did sit outside while everyone else went, and I did go swimming in the Ammonoosuc (read: freezing) river. I don’t exactly know why I’m telling you this whole story (which was clearly not my finest moment), except that by the end of the trip I was in love–with the mountains, the trees, the river, with nature. It’s like something inside of me woke up.
It is imperative to me that my children have the opportunity to develop a deep connection to nature.
The following year we went back up to the White Mountains, and this time I wore my then 8-month-old son on my back up to the summit of Mount Willard. It took me much longer than I’d like to admit, but I felt so powerful when I reached the top. I was proud of myself, and I was a proud mama bear because my then 3-year-old daughter had also completed the hike. During the course of the hike, we talked through being tired and wanting to quit, and as I reminded her how strong and capable she is, I was also encouraged.
My connection with nature seems to be centered around the woods, but this looks different for all of us. My sister-in-law comes to mind. She feels the most at peace when spending time at the ocean. Perhaps for you biking, walking, having a picnic or just dining al fresco are favorite ways to get outside.
In our hurried lives, it can be easy to get caught up in all the things that vie for our attention. We multitask and make lists, work, commute, it goes on. But. I have found that when I let go of the to do’s and get outside, I feel settled, grounded, connected.
I’d love to hear how your family connects with nature.