”We’re listening to the quiet’*

By Sarah Bateman, URA board president

My focus for 2018 was simple: Go outside. 
It seems like the simplest of statements. Two words. And seemingly unnecessary. My grandparents would have been puzzled by a “goal” to “go outside.” 
It was Florence Williams’ recent book that inspired my focus. “The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative” is full of hard scientific research from around the globe to back up her title. Check it out. 
I kept a log of what I did, for how long, and jotted down any observations, both external and internal. 
As with any adjustment in habit, we must address the obstacles that might stand in our way. With modern conveniences, we have steadily trained our minds and bodies to shun the slightest discomfort. We simply won’t tolerate cold, heat, sweat, snow, rain, boredom, or exertion. This results in retreating to climate-controlled buildings, with instant food and endless digital stimulation. Don’t get me wrong—I fully take advantage of all of those things! This outside focus, though, has forced me to stretch my resilience, work my muscles, and survive discomfort. We consistently underestimate the return on investment of outdoor time. It’s worth it. 
Here are a few things I noted in my daily log: 

Pondered what such a ramble teaches children. Gross motor skills, balance, practicing risk-assessment, resilience, adventure/exploration mindset, stretch comfort zone, collaboration, naturalist/citizen scientist, water/land pollution.—15 April 

Biked to…On the way back I literally stopped to smell the blossoms on a tree.—18 April 

Biking is so much quieter–imagine how quiet our streets would be if we all biked! —23 April 

Been thinking about factors in my life that contribute either to my happiness or my unhappiness–this outside project has made me think more critically and consciously about it.—26 April 

Heard a new bird song. C found it; we observed its details and I looked it up just now: Lesser Goldfinch.—18 May [Starting to keep a log of birds we see/hear.] 

Made grumpy g come out (to work in the garden)… I told her she HAD to come outside for only 10 mins to keep me company. She grumpily acquiesced and almost immediately upon stepping outside her mood brightened.—20 May 

C asked if she could bike by herself to…[the neighborhood school]. I reluctantly agreed–strongly reviewing rules of: stay on sidewalks, stop at all streets and look both ways before crossing. She made it and felt grown up and independent.—29 May 

Redwood forests (and, I’ll add, starry skies) have a way of reminding you of your place in the Universe.—June 

Anticipated lesson: Spending time out of doors does, indeed, strengthen my connection to nature and my resolve to protect its wild beauty. 

Unexpected insight: Time outside solidified my understanding of how crucial human connection is. We need each other. Life is made meaningful because we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Connect with nature, connect with your loved ones, connect with the global family. 

That is the “why.”

*One of my favorite quotes by my children while on a hike down in a hidden hollow up Provo Canyon. 

For many more photos and detailed insights about my year outside visit: https://desertgreengoddess.blogspot.com/search/label/outside

Other articles/resources: 

iGen, by Jean M. Twenge, PhD

“The secret to living longer may be your social life,” TED talk by Susan Pinker

The “Indoor Generation,” USA Today article (story from Velux)