Working in Sunshine

I was an “indoorsy” kid, as comedian Jim Gaffigan would say. My idea of a relaxing Saturday was sleeping in late, eating a big breakfast, reading my book, and then watching back-to-back showings of classic movies on one of our four channels. My mother would often push me outside and tell me to stay there. Sometimes I’d knock on doors, looking for someone to play with, other times I’d just sit on the back steps and make up stories or let my imagination wander.

You would think I would have been destined for the life of an author, sitting alone all day writing and tending to writerly business, but the older I get, the harder it is to languish in my basement office wondering what the weather is like outside, longing for some fresh air and sunshine. My husband and I go for our daily walks, but given how busy we are, it’s often late in the evening (and dark) when we set out.

Last summer, we got to spend six weeks in southwest Ireland, venturing outside every day to poke around abandoned castles, picnic in little village parks, wander along the seaside. And I was reminded that nature feeds the creative soul. All those natural colors and the play of the light on the hills and the little critters that scurry before you on the path, taking you by surprise. Well, duh, you say. Where do you think poets get their inspiration or painters?

But it’s easy these days to get distracted from the beauties that surround us. I see people sitting in the park checking their phones, or driving home in a rush when they should be pulling the car over to admire that amazing sunset, or people (myself included) feeling there’s just no time to loiter outside for a few minutes in the middle of the day doing “nothing.”

But it’s not nothing to watch a bird build a nest or a squirrel dig up a nut he buried or just to notice the clouds drift by. It’s not nothing to step outside to admire a full moon or to go for a bike ride in the middle of the day when you “should be working.”

I’m recommitting this summer to getting outside more, even if I have to compromise. If there’s something I need to read for work, I can do it on the back patio as easily as my office chair. I can check my e-mail on my phone while lounging under the tree, or eat my lunch at the patio table rather than at my kitchen table with my laptop in front of me. If I can’t spare a whole afternoon to get outside every day, can I at least steal a moment here and there? Will that be enough to stir my soul? I hope so.

Because this indoorsy kid is finally growing up and understanding that to feel grounded in this chaotic, crazy world, we sometimes need to stand barefoot in the grass.

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