Of a Life Sustaining Nature

Because nature is the only “non-essential” destination currently allowed by either law or conscience, the great outdoors has become an even higher priority for my family than usual. (And as anyone knows who regularly spends time outside, nature is the most essential destination of all.)

First, I take Violet out for a short walk in the morning. At midday, unless it’s raining, we take the kids out for a 45-minute stroller walk to a farm during every work-at-home lunch break. Then after work, I whisk them out again while dinner is being conjured up by our resident world-class chef.

And since we’re uneasy about playgrounds right now, these pre-dinner nature jaunts usually only consist of one basic component: Walking through the woods near our house, including a short paved loop and an even shorter, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nature trail.

The same exact stretch of woods each day. The same exact paved path. The same exact nature trail.


Given this repetition, there is usually a brief moment before I take the kids out when a small, nagging thought pops into my head that maybe this basic activity isn’t enough. Maybe we’ve done this one too many times. Maybe this time, the kids won’t be stimulated by a simple walk in the trees. Maybe I need to jazz it up with some bells and whistles.

And every single time without fail, that nagging thought is eradicated 15 seconds after we get outside, if not sooner.

Because every time we go outside, Greyson and Violet are instantly enraptured. They are under the sway of Mother Nature, the most dynamic babysitter, entertainer, and nurturer the world has ever known.

Nature is like a blank canvas that a wide-eyed child (or adult for that matter) can fill up with the colorful brushstrokes of her imagination. And those brushstrokes are a little different every day. So every day you take a child into nature, they will paint you a different picture.

All you need to do is get them outside; nature will work its magic from there.


It’s downright awe-inspiring to watch my kids observe the natural world. To see Violet’s tiny face light up anytime she sees a bird fly by, or a dog being walked, or a horse in the distance, or the moon overhead (that one’s her favorite). Or to watch as Greyson takes a keen interest in every little nature bauble underfoot — a pine cone, a black walnut, a patch of moss, a Y-shaped stick, a rock shaped like an animal. Or to walk behind them as they both run headlong through the woods.

There is never any shortage of conversation fodder in the woods. Never an ounce of boredom as we walk along paths we’ve traversed a hundred times before. There is somehow always something new to see, and always another topic for our freewheeling nature-walk chats.

Sitting inside, it seems like these things would be finite quantities. But once you venture outside, they start to feel almost infinite.

Why? Because being out in the open opens you up. Breathing fresh air freshens up your perspective. Spending time in nature — due to its essential and life-sustaining nature — gets you in touch with your deepest, truest nature.

Whether you’re 1½ , 3½, or 40½.


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