Last summer, at our former house, we noticed something more and more: of all our neighbors, we were the only ones who spent any measurable amount of time outside.
Whether for grilling, or for playing on the swing set, or going for a simple walk around the block, our family was largely alone. We didn’t see some neighbors for weeks. Others only went outside to mow the lawn, or get in their car and leave. My wife and I would sit in the backyard, after putting the kids to bed, just to read and drink and watch the birds. Again: all alone, all by ourselves.
Granted, we lived in a rural neighborhood, and most country folks stick to themselves. But we couldn’t shake a thought: how weird that other people in our neighborhood weren’t enjoying the lovely Michigan summer. So far, it’s been the same story at our new house.
Maybe a lot has changed since I was a kid (“Go outside and play!” my mother would shout, and we did – all day long). There are a lot of new time suck options, from Netflix to Facebook, even in rural areas. Given that more people (especially children) are spending less time outside, my values probably differ from my nation’s.
On the other hand, it’s easy to fall into nature worship, and praise fresh air so much that you become annoying. I’ll admit that not everyone craves Thoreau’s “tonic of wilderness” like I do. We sent our son to a nature center for preschool, and he spent most of his school day outdoors in the woods. That’s not for everyone.
But, I do think that if you have a yard, you should spend time in it. If you live on a road, you should walk up and down it from time to time.
And if you’re a photographer, getting outside should be a part of your practice. Take your camera, grab your kids or pet, and go outside to see what the season has accomplished.
(Coincidentally, a recent Roderick On the Line podcast episode had a discussion about this subject, specifically about people playing sports outside. Good listen.)