Modern living can make us too busy to relax, and I’m not the first to tell you that’s not healthy. Humans of whatever age need to play and let those stress generated hormones that make the heart race and adrenaline flow get out of our system. To many this may involve some form of exercise through various sports, but another way is to just get outside and become more attuned to what’s going on around you. It focuses you to live in the now, with no thought of past or future concerns. A connection with nature is proven to be healthy and therapeutic, yet severely lacking these days, especially with kids. So let me encourage you to resolve in 2017 to get outside a little more, to be still a little more, and enjoy and learn more about this wonderful place we live in. Here are some possibilities
Take a walk in the woods and look closer at the bark of trees. Notice that each species is different; some are smooth, some are rough with discernible patterns. With practice you can identify trees just by the bark.
Pause and look at cloud formations. They differ, and by observing them you can become a pretty good amateur meteorologist. Have you noticed that when Cumulus clouds (puffy white blobs with no particular shape) are high and small they indicate fair weather, but when they lower and darken they tell of rain? And what are clouds anyway? If you think water vapor you’re only part right. High altitude clouds are mostly ice and snow, even in summer.
If you happen across a wildflower, don’t just glance at it and move on. Get down and look at it close. Count at the number of petals it has, the shape of the leaves, how the plant feels, how it smells, look at where it is growing. There are over 1000 wildflowers to enjoy out there, so start looking.
Catch yourself in the woods with no one around, close your eyes, and “be still”. Take in the smells, the breeze, the sound of wind in the trees, birds singing, or the rustle noises of a chipmunk. Be in the present. If you are moved to connect with the Creator, can’t think of a better time.
Nature has an elegant complexity that you can enjoy studying if you wish, or it can simply be a quiet place that takes you away from the human race for at least a little while. And when you must return to civilization, you’ll feel more like taking it on. Enjoy the wild side a little more this year, and please take a kid along.
Steve Roark is the area forester in Tazewell, Tennessee, for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Forestry Division.