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?
I thrive on nature. I am at my most crabby when I have gone too long without sunshine and fresh air. Forest walks, garden visits, reading on the laskeshore…all favorite ways to spend my time. I am blessed that my daughter is able to attend a “green” charter school that is very focused on the benefits of the connection with being outside – each child picks a “wonder spot” outside where they sit and reflect and write in their journals, there is a learning farm, acres of prairie trails, and classroom gardens aplenty (this year my daughter’s class is growing a colonial garden to go along with their history lessons). The teachers are taking workshops on creating “outdoor” classrooms and I just LOVE it. When the sun is shining to brighten your soul and a light breeze lifts your spirits – well, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Melonie, I’m with you. The day has to have some fresh air in it, even it’s just when I stumble out of the house to feed my beasts. I’m fortunate that I live in farming country, with lots of open and green space. Then too, there’s the sight of horses near at hand and that’s always a fine thing.
As a child growing up in the southeast, shoes were something of an option from March through October. Rambling outside looking for adventure was the norm and playing indoors was only for rainy days. Yes, we all suffered sand spurs, road rash, and the occasional set of stitches from stepping on something sharp, but our parents were never investigated for neglect. I also remember my grandmother saying, “Every child is going to eat a peck of dirt!” (She was known for uttering this phrase every time my mother railed at us for coming home filthy.)
Now that I’m a parent, I encourage my son to play outside as much as possible. Not only does it increase creative play in children and cut down on the television watching, I believe it makes a healthier child. Children of my generation had far fewer environmental allergies, were in better physical condition, and created their own adventures on a daily basis!
Even if you don’t have a farm and woods to ramble through, get your kid a dog and toss them out into the back yard!
My sentiments as well, though when I moved to country with an infant, I looked around myself and thought: She can drown in the stream running ten yards from the house. Poison ivy is everywhere, as is poison oak. There are snakes, rabid animals, bee’s nests… WHAT HAVE I DONE?!
She never came to any harm, and she had a lot of fun. She also learned to identify a lot of hazards on sight, and that’s never a bad skill.
I don’t spend much time outside but, I love looking at sunsets and smelling roses. The only thing I wish I could see and smell the ocean. In books and movies I love to see where the ocean rises to meet the sky:)
Gail, I’ve read studies that conclude even staring at a picture of nature helps the brain get happy. My parents live with a view of the ocean, and they are among the happiest people I know. Though I have to tell you, sometimes, the beach is a might stinky with that sulfurous, decaying sea weed smell…
My mother used to kick us out of the house and lock the door behind us (in July we would lay on the back porch and bemoan the fact the heat was killing us). I used to walk down the gravel drive without shoes on. I recall, when I was very little, running across the hot asphalt parking lot with no shoes on.
I still love being outside. I willingly mow the yard because I don’t mind being outside and sweating (and I sweat, oh boy do I sweat). This past weekend I wandered around my parents backyard looking at anything and everything just because I didn’t want to be inside.
I’ve been going a little bit stir crazy lately because of the ridiculous amounts of rain we have been having. So much rain, so much rain.
I need my outside time, regardless of the season. About the only thing that really keeps me buttoned up inside is a combination of low temperatures and high winds. I’m a wind chill hibernator, I guess, but other than that, I’ll find a corner of the day to get out.
Thanks for shnairg. What a pleasure to read!
I would choose the Blue for my Little Boy and I really Love the Table Box as it has Multiple uses and with Kids you can always do with Extra Storage.
I thrive living in area where we have four seasons. I lived in Southern California for a time and they two seasons summer and rain (which rarely didn’t happen, when I was living there). Now that I’m home in the northwest, the four seasons are wonderful. I love spring and autumn. Nature seems to vibrant during those two seasons. The colors and smells put a bounce in my step. I don’t spend a whole lot of time outdoors, but I do when the mood strikes.
My parents live in San Diego. I do NOT know how they stand it. How do they mark the passage of time without changing leaves, the first snow, crocuses, spring flowers, peepers, lightening bugs, and so on? And yet, a ton of people seem quite happy to ditch the seasons and go for the sun. Maybe that’s evolution at work, but I’m with you: Gimme seasons.
I lived in San Diego for 7 years…. Not my favorite place to live, great place to visit. I’m all about the seasons!
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Thanks for the writeup. I definitely agree with what you are saying. I have been talking about this subject a lot lately with my mother so hopefully this will get him to see my point of view. Fingers crossed!