May Challenge

Happy May Day!

Summer is just around the corner. Flowers are blooming, buds are appearing on once-bare branches, moles are popping up in yards in anticipation of tender young shoots to nibble at. If you haven’t already made reservations for many campgrounds, now is the time to seek out the options that remain (most reservable campgrounds open up reservations six months to a year in advance). Even if you can’t get away for an overnight trip, Spring hikes, especially around locations that feed off snow melt, are spectacular!

In fact, I have a challenge for you. Remember those times when you were young, endless hours spent playing outside, getting all kinds of dirty, exploring every nook and cranny you could wiggle into? Spring is the release of pent-up bodies. It is the fresh bursting-forth of life from the Earth. Spring is a time to remember that just outside our windows, the natural world exists. THAT world has been here longer than us and will continue long after we’re gone. Seasons change, and with each change is a new opportunity to focus on the newness of each season, the subtle shift from one mode of life to the next.

Here’s my challenge: One month of getting outside a minimum of three times a week for at least 20 minutes.*

This does not include walking to and from your car. It isn’t the snippet here and there of walking from your office to the coffee shop or taking a smoke break. I hope it would be more than just the time spent begrudgingly mowing lawns or pulling weeds, though if that is your form of enjoyment, it will do. What it is is twenty minutes of just enjoying nature. It is laying back in the grass, examining cloud shapes for animals with your kids or tracking down the frog you hear at dusk each night. It is definitely the hike or camping trip, whether 1 mile or 50. It is embracing even those rainy days with rubber boots and worms abound. Twenty minutes outside, letting nature soak into your skin, feeling the difference between re-circulated, air-conditioned air and what nature uses to tousle your hair. Two times a week (or more if you’re ambitious!) for meaningful interaction with something that isn’t man-made. Your job, your house, your chores – those will still be there when you get back, but nature changes. Go outside! Change with it!

To join the challenge, simply leave a comment. Additionally, track and share your adventures by joining the Facebook page!

*I realize that this challenge may be easier for some than others. For those of you already outside, make a commitment to either a) increase your time (20 minutes too easy? How about 45?) or b) make it your goal to get someone else outside for those 20 minutes! It is a great opportunity to invite the elderly woman down the street to go for a walk, or the friend who you know could simply benefit from some fresh air. The key part of this challenge is that you are consciously focusing on the natural world around you.

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
~Khalil Gibran

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Celebrating Earth

Have you ever considered the nursemaid tree? It is the tree that fosters the growth of another tree by providing the rich nutrients a young sapling needs in the forest, even after its own growth has ended. Dictionary.com defines nursemaid as “…to take care of or look after protectively.” Sometimes I wonder just who is protecting whom. The nursemaid tree provides the nutrients and a pedestal for new growth, helping a seedling to get that much closer to the sun it needs. The roots of the young tree hug its nursemaid, the simple beauty of it calling to us to remember that without the tree that once was standing, a new tree would not have taken root. The nursemaid tree is alive no longer, yet the essence of it lives on, flourishing, the atoms shared between the two.

The Earth is our nursemaid in a way, though not (yet) a no longer living thing, it provides the nutrients we need, combining its own atoms with those that form our own bodies. It has been around so much longer  than us; knows the secrets of history that have gotten us here today. It gives us firm standing so that we may grow, but do we provide the same care to it? Do we take into account that without it, we would cease? Do we understand that the elements in it become elements within us? As chemicals leech the soil, our own bodies are leeched of healthy substances we need to thrive. We use chemicals in everything from food to beauty products, sacrificing health for ease and beauty. We contaminate our rivers and soil with detrimental runoff so that things around us will be beautiful today, without thought to how changed the soil will be next year.

Today is April 22 – Earth Day. It was officially first celebrated in 1970 and has since then grown and spread to communities across the globe. It is a day dedicated to cleanups, recycling, and relishing in nature, thankful for the bounty the Earth has provided and keeping an eye toward maintaining the value of that bounty in years to come. You have the opportunity to be both the beneficiary of a nursemaid and to become one yourself for future generations. What nutrients and strengths will you pass on? How tall will your pedestal grow? How strong will the sapling be that grows from your protective care?

Make the Earth strong = Make yourself strong