Get Outside, America! Give yourself a gift

4298704-animal-footprints-on-snowIt is not quite a January thaw, but it is one of those sky-blue days between snowfalls. The sun beats down on my back as I walk around the lake. The birds are up and about bringing life to the silent stage laid down by yesterday’s gentle snow. I had to get out of the house, so here I am – bundled up and ready to explore some of my favorite places in the middle of winter.

Half way through my walk, I realized how badly I needed this escape. I have been suffering the January blues. Maybe even a bit of seasonal affective disorder. Who knows? But the sun dragged me out of the house and what a difference that has made.

The lake is frozen and covered with fresh powdery snow. Since the snow stopped falling last night it is now laced with hundreds if not thousands of footprints. The ducks and geese have clustered in certain areas and then there are the long straight paths of fox, feral cats, and coyote prints, predators all looking for their nocturnal meals.

I pass a closely clustered gaggle of gulls. A tightly knit group all hunkered down as if they are whispering with one another. I pass open water inhabited by 5 hooded mergansers doing their mating, purring and diving thing. Beautiful birds and always entertaining.

13019490264_b0de1b2269_mI crest the dam and descend to the lower pond which is largely ice free. In stark contrast to the almost lifeless gulls, hundreds of Canada geese are having a grand old time celebrating the sun and the open water. The geese are dunking their heads and necks and flapping their wings in the shallow waters. Some rise up high above the water others scamper tens of feet and make a shallow dive.   They are clearly washing their feathers and bodies and shaking off the cold of the past few days. As I watch, nearly every goose in the pond carries on in this manner. It looks joyful. They are appreciating the day and the break in the weather just as I am.

As I complete my hike, totally refreshed, I realize that there are hardly any other people out on the paths today. They are locked up in their homes, cars, and offices, protected from the cold and ice. But they are also shielded from the sun and light breeze, the call of the birds and the antics of the waterfowl. My wish for each of them is that they find the excuse and the motivation to bundle up a bit and head outside.

So go take full advantage of a break in the weather, even in the middle of January, and go outside to get refreshed. If you do this, you will be glad you did. Then go back to your family or job and use that few minutes of rejuvenation to be more creative, productive and inspiring throughout all facets of your life, your life on the inside that is often so separate from the wonders of nature.

Take-a-way: Working to save the places we love is important work but we must also take the time to get out and enjoy these places for our own mental and physical health.

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