Summer is a time for play in natural settings


To kick off the summer, my family and I went to the mountains for a week. I felt like a child straight out of Richard Louv’s book, “The Last Child in the Woods.”

The smell of fresh air, the multi-tone green of trees and multi-color of flowers, the peace in the sound of birds and wind, the lines in the horizon created by uneven mountains and rocks, the bright blue of the sky and the feeling of mild temperatures on my skin made me feel part of nature. It was refreshing and invigorating.

Once that feeling took over, it was more of a pleasure to go out exploring places, learning about and admiring the beauty around me and the preciousness of natural spaces. I felt connected.

Nature is magic. We observe and come to realize that “everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible,” as Louv states in his book. And, perhaps, we should follow his advice: “never treat life casually.”

Nature is healing; healing of the heart. The appreciation of nature builds compassion. “Man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; [the Lakota] knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too. — Luther Standing Bear (C. 1868-1939)”

Nature is health; health for the body and mind.

As Louv well puts it, “time in nature is not leisure time; it's an essential investment in our children’s health (and also, by the way, in our own).”

We exercise and play without noticing!

Playing, especially unstructured, imaginative, exploratory play, the kind that naturally happens outdoors, in nature, is recognized as fundamental for the healthy growth and development of any individual. So much so that this summer launched a community action challenge open to anyone around the globe: Play!

The goal of the challenge is to make communities more playful through finding or reviving a pastime that brings joy while building connections and strengthening relationships. Check their website and consider giving it a try.

When we visit natural spaces, we tune our senses; we see how everything fits together; we feel the power of nature, and we fall in love with it. It makes it easy to understand why it is so important to protect our national monuments and national, state and local parks.

Now, add to all that a sense of wonder and, as paleontologist Scott Sampson always says, “get outside, get into nature and make your own discoveries.”

Enjoy your summer! 

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