Thursday, October 2, 2014

Project Get Outside: Heights

Maybe it has been the cooler mornings, or maybe it has just been getting out of the house every morning. This week has been so refreshing. What is hard for me as a mother of two small ones is that almost every night I am exhausted, but it isn't the sun soaked legs achey kind of exhausted. It feels more like fourteen loads of laundry that were washed and my head hurting as I wash the dishes after the kids are in bed. But there's a little bit of magic when I get outside each day that soaks into my skin. Maybe some call it vitamin D. What I think it is though is that I am tiring myself out in good ways right along with my girls at the start of each day. We are using our muscles and running and climbing and getting some sun on our face. I have known that I like to be outside, and I have come to know that I really enjoy hiking and being outside. But this week I think I have learned that it is almost essential for me to be outside. I think my mind runs better and I feel physically and emotionally better the more I am outside. I think people often overlook this as something that can be very true for a lot of people.

I am excited to read more of Last Child in the Woods. I have actually been pretty busy trying to do the housework that I have gotten a bit behind on from being out so much more that I haven't read much of it this week. I think that's a good thing though. Because nature can teach so much on its own. This week I feel like I've realized I do have a fear in several elements in nature. Heights is a huge fear for me. But this week I felt like I did two things that stretched my comfort with nature.

The first was when I had taken the girls to a nearby park we had never been to and the walking trail was a raised walking path along a hill. The path had a huge incline and went on top of a very big hill and then went back down. This is a hill I probably would have done on my own with not too much fear, but there was this little voice in my head telling me to push the girls in the jogger to the very top. This situation reminded me of something Andrew would do, and I would be nervous and watch and tell him to be really careful. But that day I was feeling brave and was without Andrew. I decided to be the one doing something that maybe wasn't that safe. There wasn't a great entrance for a stroller on the side of park we were on, so I pushed the girls up a very steep and short little hill to the trail. And then over several large rocks. At this point I started reconsidering my decision to do this. I felt funny and like maybe people were secretly watching me. All of the sudden I wanted down. But there wasn't really a way down. Just like a roller coaster I had to go up that big hill before going down. To any average person I am sure this little walking path just looked like a raised walking trail with a large hill. But to me it was my own little mountain. I had my front tire of our new jogger locked and the strap tied around my wrist. I knew if I lost control of the stroller on the way up it could be bad, but I was willing to take the risk. And then we got to the top and Blanche exclaimed, "Wow!" You could see for miles with the big Texas sky. She asked to get out. I looked down the side of the hill that would have been a wild ride for any child trying to sled down. I told her okay but she had to walk on the rocky trail and not try to walk down the front part of the hill. "Why??" she asked. I told her that I was afraid if she started rolling or tripped she might not stop, and that maybe sometime daddy could help her. But she could lead the way for Rosemary and me down the gravel trail. And then we made it to the bottom and we were done. We had went up that hill and back down. And no one there shook my hand. But it got my heart racing and there was such a feeling of accomplishment. And that I had shown my daughter something magical.

The second situation was this morning. My good friend Whitney and her two children came hiking with our family. Last week we had hiked part of this trail at Brushy Creek but had turned around due to it being lunch time. Today we set off first thing on the trail. And it quickly became a trail along a cliff. Whitney was wearing her two year old, and I was wearing Rosemary. Andrew started to hold Molly and Blanche's hand as it got higher and higher. We did the whole trail and I think I only asked for Whitney's hand once or twice. This is huge for me. I choose not to look down and think about the height but focused on the safe dirt trail. I chose to have faith in Andrew that he would do a good job with both preschool aged girls (3 and 4). The view was beautiful. The kids all found golfballs that fell from the golf range off the top of the cliff we were hiking in the middle of. I love all the pictures. At one point in a picture Andrew is below us with his hands partly raised. He was exploring over the boulders that were laying on and above the creek. Someone had built a huge wooden ramp that we could walk on to get fully down. He was in his element. Andrew led us one by one down the ramp to the bottom.

I  realized today that taking small risks in nature can be such a good thing. It is in us instinctually to evaluate situations and stretch ourselves and problem solve. We grow as people. So many of us take risks every day. The mom who is running her children on the sidewalk in the suburbs with her jogger is still taking risks. Any of those cars driving beside her could crash. We take risks every day and none of us know what could end in an accident. There is something thrilling and a bit terrifying to look down fifty to a hundred feet and know that it could only be five steps in a certain direction and I could fall and die. Maybe this is just a very close encounter with our own mortality. And how careful we really have to be.

After our hike we let the kids all play in the sand and on the swings. There is a storm heading our way so it was cloudy with the sun peaking in and out and a cool breeze blowing. I love the simplicity of being outside. Sometimes I start to feel claustrophobic in the house with my children crawling all over me. It has been a nice change to get out and let them run. I know realistically we probably won't always be able to get outside and go the park and trails every single morning. For now though, the weather is beautiful and we are able to go so that has been what we are doing. This makes me dream of having land one day, when we don't have to even leave home. However I am realizing how amazing this area is with all of the many parks and trails.

Tonight the cold front is coming in and the rain should be happening any minute. Rainstorms and chilly mornings make fall seem very near even in central Texas. I am trying to accept and appreciate this newer climate and late fall that happens here. It is a funny feeling to see Blanche and myself with tans on our faces from being out in late September. I am excited to keep reading and to keep exploring, learning more about myself and life through nature.

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