I am not really an outdoorsy person. I like nature and the environment and fresh air, but when left to my own devices, I am much more comfortable in air conditioning. Coincidentally, I have a son who loves animals, bugs, dirt, exploring, risk and all that accompanies the outdoors. (Pretty common interests for a 5-year-old boy I guess).
It is amazing (and scary) how quickly we as parents can set tones in our families. Dave and I joke that one reason we are such a good match is our mutual discomfort with the idea of camping and our similar feelings about loving animals most when they are not in our homes. And who knows? In the nature vs. nurture debate, maybe Josh would feel this way if he had been in our care since he was born or if he had our genetic predispositions. Maybe not. All I know is that our son is nothing like us in either of these ways. He is an animal-lover, an adventure seeker, and a naturalist. I have always admired people like this, but I just accepted (and even touted) the fact that I am not so much like that.
And then I went on vacation in the mountains of North Carolina. What a beautiful reminder of the magnificence of creation. As we were driving further and further into the mountains, I felt calmer; more peaceful. I cared less about emails, texts, and even responsibilities (luckily, because I didn’t have service anyway). I gave myself permission to breathe and take it all in. It felt like Josh and I were both children in that car, looking around and pointing out amazing things we were seeing. It was awesome.
What is it about nature that brings me back to myself? To God? To genuine connection with my surroundings? It seems like I just get busy and preoccupied, and I stop looking around. But when confronted with such majesty as I was during that drive into the mountains, I was forced to notice; compelled to appreciate it. How could I not see such raw and magnificent beauty?
A few months ago, we got a sweet card and gift from family friends who live out West. In the card, there was a check, and with the check, we were instructed to put the money toward doing something adventurous and outdoorsy with our son. I felt slightly overwhelmed at the thought, but also motivated. “We can do this.” I thought. I just wasn’t sure how. For a while after receiving it, I kept my eyes and ears open for opportunities to use this gift. And then slowly, I forgot. Life got busy, and our outdoor time remained limited to bike rides and the occasional park visit.
It wasn’t until we were hiking in the woods of North Carolina that I remembered the gift and the charge that accompanied it. I smiled as I realized why these friends did what they did. It was not out of judgment for our suburban/city life. It was out of pure passion and enthusiasm for nature and their firsthand experiences in how meaningful it can be to engage in outdoor adventures. After spending a few days connecting with nature and seeing the joy in my son’s face as we hiked, searched for animals, and had picnics, I realized that I wasn’t just doing it for my son. I was being renewed and invigorated right along with him. I get it a little better now. I want to get it even more and keep growing in my love and appreciation for nature and the environment. I don’t want my son to grow up feeling separated from his parents in his love for the outdoors because there are enough reasons why kids can feel separated from their parents.
So I have come to a conclusion. I think people who say they are not outdoorsy (like me) could be setting themselves up to be nature-avoidant. And after my renewal experience this week, that is just not acceptable for me anymore. I may never want to bike to work every day. It is likely that I will still prefer to take my son to a movie than on a nature hike. I am pretty sure I will always prefer to see a snake in a book than in real life. So maybe I am not really outdoorsy. But I am a nature lover. I do value the earth and all of its inhabitants (including snakes). And I need to make that more clear in the way I live my life. I need to emphasize it more in the way I parent and the way I spend my time. If I want my son to believe that I value something, I have to show him.
My son has taught me more this year than anyone else in my life. And this is one more thing. Thank you, Joshua, for reminding me to love and appreciate nature, animals and even bugs. And thanks to our dear friends for sharing this week with us and lovingly encouraging me to tap in to my outdoorsy self. It’s in there. It just takes a little coaxing to come out.
My personal challenge this week: Do something adventurous. And do it with people you love.