Come on grown-ups — let's go outside and play

Feb 03, 2014

It was 5:20 in the late afternoon when I layered up, put on hat and gloves, and went outside to play, leaving the dry air of our home to delight in the clean air of nature. We adults need to get outside and play in the winter (unless you have breathing problems).

Leaves of fall still clogged the stream that flows through our property, so I grabbed our garden rake and pulled them up the bank into the yard. But, when I went out the next day, strong winds had blown through the area tumbling the leaves back into the ravine. This time I raked quickly and then jumped onto the lawn tractor to pulverize them before they got away. It wasn’t the need to clean up the leaves that sent me out that early evening, though. It was the need to get outside to breathe fresh air as dusk filled the sky with a blue and golden sunset.

There are many winter days when the air and light are perfect. To walk outside into the natural world breaks up the hours spent indoors where the air can be oppressive. It’s also the season freest of pollen. Although your mother may have told you that cold air causes colds, it’s the inside air during these months that is a greater danger. Think about the bacteria, dander and other germs that recycle through our air vents. The more time we spend inside, the more we are exposed. For healthy people, the air out there is better.

Something else arrives with winter days — depression and low levels of energy. We feel sluggish. If you cannot go outside, sit by the sunniest window in the house, especially in the morning, and turn on bright indoor lamps. If it is evening and snow is falling, find a quiet place and glory in its beauty through a window.

Children, especially, need time outdoors for their high energy level stays the same throughout the year. They haven’t stopped growing just because the temperature has dropped. Give yourself and your children or grandchildren a wintertime stress reducer. Step one: bundle up. Two: open the door. Three: “Let’s go, kids, it’s time to get out there and see how many birds and squirrels we can find. We’re explorers!”

It’s also true that exposure to sunlight can lower blood pressure and cut the risk of heart attack and stroke. A new study by researchers at universities in Southampton and Edinburgh in the British Isles found that sunlight on the skin releases molecules that aid the body. We know that too much exposure can cause skin cancer, but too little can also increase blood pressure and increase the risks to the heart.

Most of all, let us remember that cold breezes and winter mountain scenes are a part of God’s handiwork. So many times we hurry through life and miss the beauty of creation, particularly at this time of year.  In the movie “The Color Purple” one of the main characters, Ceilie, is feeling low and angry with God when her friend, Shug, shares a belief: “I think God gets mad at us when we walk through a field and miss the color purple.”

Look for the brilliant red of cardinals and the golden feathers of the finch. See the varied colors of the horses on the hillside and the outlines of trees against a blue sky. On days when I need to see life at its fullest beauty, any time of year, I remember and give thanks for the words of poet e.e. cummings, “i thank You God for most this amazing day."