I spent a large chunk of childhood indoors, reading, writing, watching movies, and exercising my imagination until I had the foundation for my creativity, humor, and love of story-telling. Truth be told, I wasn’t an “outdoorsy” girl. I liked air-conditioning and not sweating and I had a tendency to catch a sunburn on a cloudy day thanks to my redhaired complexion (which in itself is ironic, seeing as how I’m not fair-skinned). I enjoyed reading about girls who were outdoorsy, adventurous, and were unafraid to get down and dirty. I adored stories of adventures in foreign places, specifically anything centered around archaeology, but knew deep down that I would never survive as an archaeologist because of all the things that could potentially kill me, and I don’t mean ancient curses and booby traps. I mean bugs. Big. Deadly. Bugs. And man-eating snakes and crocodiles and the list goes on. Why is everything interesting buried in places with such deadly predators?
I maintained my love relationship with the great indoors until after college, when I read Wild by Cheryl Strayed (because OBVIOUSLY a BOOK encouraged me to give the outdoors a chance). I loved Wild so much I decided to start hiking. The problem is there aren’t many places to hike in the suburbs of Cincinnati. I needed to get creative. So while hubby jumped into his new outdoorsy hobby of mountain biking, I did my best to crush my fear of sweat and grime and spiders and leap out onto the trail. I bought hiking boots from REI because I wanted to feel legit and I Googled hiking trails in the area, determined to turn myself into an outdoorsy person. While Jake soared down the mountain bike trail at a local park, I hiked leisurely behind him with my little green backpack and my brand-new hiking boots, hair french-braided because I’ll take any opportunity to channel Lara Croft, and I enjoyed the hike. So we went back, and kept coming back until our little retreat into the “woods” became almost a cleansing ritual, one where we weren’t on our phones or stuck indoors behind computer screens or the pages of a book. My determination to become an outdoorsy girl worked.
It worked so well that the next trip my husband and I took (and we took very few) was a hiking trip. We saved our pennies and found a gorgeous bed and breakfast that is actually a castle nestled near Hocking Hills, and on Independence Day weekend, we fell in love with the outdoors.
There was no internet in the castle and no outdoor lights on the castle grounds, so each night we were plunged into complete, silent-as-only-the-woods-can-be darkness. During the day we’d pick a trail or two to hike and submerge ourselves into the mossy green and earthy brown of Hocking Hills. We loved it so much we went back the following year and stayed in one of the cottages on the castle grounds. When the boys are a bit older we plan on taking them back to the castle that now feels like an old friend.
In our time away from the woods we’ve been rather busy. My reading has been supplemented by books that encourage a life outdoors, whether it be Tracks by Robyn Davidson, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, or The Call of the Wild and Free by Ainsley Arment, among others. I’ve had two baby boys since the first trip to Hocking Hills (during which, I was actually pregnant with my first) and Jake and I both had career changes. A few things have remained constant, but one thing that has grown over these past few years is my love of nature. I make the effort to get my boys outside as much as possible when the weather is decent, whether it’s on the playground or exploring a park. I try to encourage their natural curiosity about the world by letting them collect rocks and sticks and anything else they might find along the way. I find tools that help them enjoy the outdoors, things like sidewalk chalk and bikes. I let them take their more durable toys outside to play because why not? We open the windows and talk about bugs and plants and I try so very hard not to pass along my fear of spiders. I think the time we spend outside is important, and it has grown closer to the top of my priority list.
At the end of the day, I desire for us to have spent our time well, and one of the best ways I know how to do that is by enjoying God’s creation. I realize that Earth Day is technically supposed to be about environmental conservation, which I applaud, but I don’t think that always needs to be a scientific, technical thing. I think some of the best conservation work we can do is teach our children to enjoy and care for the earth, and to recognize that God created it and see His glory reflected in the beauty of our natural treasures.
Happy Earth Day, from a self-proclaimed “outdoorsy” girl.