It's Time To Get Your Family Outdoors Because...

Once we’d settled in at the base of the two large oaks and turned off our headlamps, it was utterly black. Sunrise was still an hour away and the clouds blocked whatever light the moon and stars might otherwise have offered. No more than 20 minutes later, adrenaline jolted my heart into action as the sound of approaching footsteps became distinct. Black bears commonly passed down the game trail we had chosen to sit near. So close were the footsteps now that I could almost feel the weight of them moving the mossy ground beneath me. And then, abruptly, they halted. Seconds seemed like minutes before a loud snort followed by a stomp and, then, retreating footsteps, let my daughter and I know that it was a deer and not a bear that had almost walked over us. Leaning close and in a whisper that carried the emotional tenor of a scream, my daughter said, “That was a deer, right?!?”

Thirty minutes later, as light from the approaching sunrise was beginning to fill the sky, movement in the brush caught our eye. No more than 20 feet away, a bobcat meandered into the opening in front of us. Unaware of our presence, he trotted by, eventually disappearing into the brush. Awe-struck and hesitant to say anything that might compromise the beauty of the moment, my daughter and I stared at each other, wide-eyed.

Four more deer passed by us that morning, but offered no shot.

Later in the day, as the setting sun cast the sky a vivid orange, we watched a small gaggle of turkeys wander across the valley below and roost in the pines atop a nearby ridge. Senses alive; hearts full; for a moment, all was right with the world. “We should probably go ahead and pack it in.” I suggested. “No.” My daughter replied. “Not yet. Can’t we sit for 10 more minutes?”

Later this season, I would shoot a good-sized buck and, then, a doe to fill our freezer. But it is that day with my daughter – and not the “successful” hunts - that remains most vivid in my memory. Even as I write this from the comfort of my favorite leather chair, I can feel the ground of those woods beneath me; I feel the morning chill and smell the dank woods – even the musky scent of a deer that got a little too close is present for me. To have shared the magic of those moments with my daughter is an invaluable and irreplaceable gift that touches almost every facet of who I am as a man.

But the blinking cursor on the electronic screen in front of me brings me back to the reality of the task at hand and the day’s chores before me. I’m distracted, ideas are ill-formed and words come slowly as I struggle to finish this blog; it’s taken far longer than it should have. I’m aware that I am mentally tired – the emotional, cognitive and spiritual demands of the past week have depleted me. Although I had last night to myself and indulged in a mindless evening of television and internet surfing, I’m still somewhat ill-at-ease. I need to get outside I tell myself. Then I am reminded that this afternoon I’m shooting and fishing with a friend; its not a great time of the year for bass fishing, but it’ll get me outside. And tomorrow I’ll hike Kennesaw Mountain at sunrise with my wife. I love those moments with her. And, reflecting on this, something inside of me relaxes.

There’s nothing I could sell you with greater confidence than the outdoors. As a father, a husband, a psychologist and an educator, I have found no more meaningful or valuable place to be - or share with those I love - than the outdoors. It is not only a place of rest and recreation, but a place of profound learning, healing, bonding and growth - a place of restoration.

In the short series of blogs to follow, I'll offer 5 reasons why its time to get your family outdoors.  My hope is to encourage, challenge and resource you to take yourself and your family outdoors more often and with more purpose.


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