I read recently about something called “earthing.” Proponents of earthing (which consists of standing barefoot in the grass or on bare earth) claim it benefits everything from the immune system to heart health. The optimal practice is to get your feet in contact with terra firma for forty minutes a day.
I also came across a study in a wonderful book, “Last Child in the Woods,” that claimed for every hour an ADHD kid spends outside, their ritalin prescription can be reduced by 5 mg.
Hmm. I betcha it took a Ph.D. or three to conclude what every kid under the age of eight ought to know: Messing around in the great outdoors is good for us, and if we can do it in bare feet without getting stung by something obnoxious or otherwise injured, then so much the better. From an evolutionary standpoint, the conclusion makes sense: For the first three million years of homo sapiens’ tour on earth, those of us who thrived in the out of doors were the ones most likely to survive to reproduce.
It’s interesting to me that in my third book, “The Virtuoso,” (Sourcebooks, November 2011) a significant part of the action takes place out in the country. Lord Valentine Windham is a piano virtuoso who is suffering an odd malady of the left hand. I suspect it’s a variant of carpal tunnel, but then too, it might be an affliction of some arcane manly humor that comes into play when a fellow is recruited to be the hero in a romance novel.
Lord Val believes his music to be his defining accomplishment. He’s played his way through family trauma, loss, joy, and all manner of upheaval. He’s forbidden to play at the start of the book, but this leaves the door open for him to once again learn how to play as he did when he was boy growing up with four brothers.
He builds a fort with his friends, though it’s in truth a stately old manor house that he restores.
He camps with his buddies for much of the summer and cooks over an open fire.
He does a lot of his bathing in the farm pond beyond the woods (skinny dips, if you want to get technical).
He kisses a pretty lady in those woods, and falls in love with the pretty lady in her flower garden.
Not surprisingly, what Val and Ellen get about each other is that each requires a life that allows for a great deal of creative self-expression. For Ellen, the flower gardens serve that purpose, for Valentine, it’s his music.
He learns to love again, despite not having his piano handy to say the hard things for him. She learns to trust again, despite her conviction that she has to manage her troubles without endangering anybody else.
I have to wonder now in retrospect how much of their healing took place because they were around each other, and how much because they were in daily, happy contact with the good earth and the great outdoors. Think I’ll go stand out in the grass and ponder this question.
What about you? Spring is coming: Do you thrive on regular doses of nature, or are you one of those who manages quite nicely without poking your nose outside unnecessarily?