Here’s the thing. There are many fewer excuses now. Maybe you’re home, maybe you’re kids are home. Maybe you’re working from home, on limited hours, or in quarantine. Even though the toilet paper may be in short supply, nature isn’t. And it is a glorious time to be outside.
Yes, I know – the “look on the bright side” messages are getting a little old. For many of us this is new, and potentially scary, territory. We all have mothers and fathers and grandparents, elderly neighbors or high-risk friends. This will affect everyone. One effect that you can guarantee is that you will be healthy if you go outside.
Hike. Walk. Run. Watch the birds. Learn to identify trees. Photograph nature – any nature. Garden. Weed your garden. Rake leaves. Pick up sticks. Make a brush pile. Make a bonfire pile to burn on the summer solstice. Prune trees. Plant seeds. Read a book in the sun. Put up a clothesline and wash everything and hang it in the sun. Wash your windows.
Sunlight is powerful, and there are too many sources to cite that. The outdoors is safer than any building in a pandemic. Dress appropriately, and go outside.
Just today on my walk I noticed that the scar from a cut-off tree limb has checked and cracked to look like a jack-o-lantern. The weeping willows are a brilliant gold, and the Red Maples have burst forth into frothy-topped beacons for the early spring pollinators. The Pussy Willows are silvery bling that seem to radiate light within. Daffodils leaves are up in legion, the snowdrops are hanging their delicate heads toward the warming ground. Every day, even every hour, brings new change. And now you might have the opportunity to see it.
Squash down the mole tunnels. Spread lime on the yard. Rake the gravel from plowing back into the driveway. Sweep the sidewalk, the driveway. Repair the fence. Clean the gutters. Pick up trash in the neighborhood.
The kids that are home (perhaps driving you a bit crazy) will find room outside. They will find sticks that stir imagination and birdsong aplenty. They will run and play and fall and run and climb and fall and run some more. They will have rosy red cheeks from heat and cold, bright eyes from their adventures and activity.
Or they may sit on the porch and whine that they are bored. Even if they sit on the porch with a phone or tablet, the fresh air is such a key piece to both physical and mental health. Even if you sit outside on the porch, or the stoop, or on a living room chair you’ve dragged into the yard the effect will be a freeing one.
Once outside you are no longer contained, trapped. With the breeze on your face, whether warm or chill, you are no longer isolated. The quarantine is still being adhered to, and yet there is this world – this huge, beautiful, thriving world – that you are still a part of.
Ride bikes. Draw on the sidewalk with chalk. Jump rope. Collect acorn hats. Press the skeletons of fall leaves. Lay on your back and watch the clouds and find their secret identities. Hide under the hemlocks and create a new story for your secret world. Dig holes. Stack rocks.
There are countless articles out there that tell you about the health benefits of fresh air and sunshine, especially when you’re sick. An interesting read during this time is about the 1918 H1N1 pandemic and the open-air treatment that was implemented, somewhat accidentally at first, for many of the patients. To sum it up, the patients that were in the temporary hospital tents, and moved out into the sunshine on nice days had less severe symptoms and recovered faster. The medical personnel that served those temporary hospitals also had a lower rate of infection than those in brick and mortar hospitals.
So. Go outside. Get in the habit now. Bask in the sunshine, breathe deeply of the fresh air. Your yard, your porch, the local park. If none of those place resonate with you, remember Audubon. There are six miles of level trails, in a series of loops so that you can choose your distance with comfort. There are plenty of picnic tables, two pavilions, and a nature play area for the children. The restrooms are open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. for your convenience.
While as of this writing, the Nature Center building has closed, but the trails, Liberty viewing, and restrooms are still open. ACNC staff may be onsite and able to help with store sales. The vision of ACNC is that every child – and let’s extend that to every adult right now – has a real and healthy connection to nature. And since nature can make you healthier, that’s a win-win.
Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn to dusk as is Liberty, the Bald Eagle. The Nature Center building is currently closed until further notice due to COVID-19 and state recommendations. More information can be found online at auduboncnc.org or by calling (716) 569-2345.
Sarah Hatfield is Education Coordinator at ACNC.