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A walk in the woods

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It’s spring! Well, it’s practically summer, but nobody around here seems to trust the groundhog anymore. Either way, the punch line—it’s getting warmer. With warmer weather comes the urge to break the winter blues, get out and enjoy the fresh air. That’s exactly what I did this past weekend when the sun came through and heated things up into the 70s. The leaves may not be on the trees yet, but the grass is starting to green up. With the water drying out of the ground at least a little bit, what better time for a walk in the woods?

I’ve always been a fan of the autobiographical book by Bill Bryson, “A Walk in the Woods” published in 1988. He writes about his love of the outdoors and the adventure he stumbled into when he and his friend decided to walk the Appalachian Trail. Like many, it appears that his appetite for the wilderness was bigger than his stomach. Without ruining the plot for anyone who might want to read it, I’ll simply make the suggestion for anyone who gets that spring fever urge of wanting to trek the height of the country, start with some baby steps.

On that sunny Saturday, my wife and I strapped up the baby carrier and took our son for his first outing in the woods, taking in the warm air and the clean spring smells. The thing about being outside, going for that walk and enjoying the outdoors, is that nobody has to know how far you walked, whether it was a workout or just a leisurely stroll. It’s not a competition or something for the edification of others.

The Japanese have a practice they call tree bathing, or shinrin-yoku. This is basically just the act of sitting or walking among trees. According to research, it’s been proven to improve the immune system, reduce stress, boost circulation and promote hormone production. This should not come as a surprise. Men and women have come up through the ages more exposed to the elements of nature than we are today. While some may look at this as taxing on the body, others see being outside as a part of the original recipe so to speak.

Another popular health practice came up in the southwest of the United States called “earthing” or “grounding.” This is simply the idea that our natural biology carries a certain electrical charge and requires regular ‘grounding’ against the earth without the interference of a synthetic barrier. This results in reduced inflammation and an interruption of supposed electrical feedback throughout the body, which has been attributed to headaches and other stress-related illnesses.

Regardless of whether or not you endorse these ideas, the need to get outside and refresh the soul is something we can all relate to. Certainly this was the idea that Bryson was getting at, more so than the specifics of hiking the Appalachian Trail.

For any of you who are less inclined to read Bryson’s book, a film adaptation was put out in 2015 starring Robert Redford as Bryson. As someone who has read the book and seen the movie, I found them both quite enjoyable. So on your next rainy Saturday, give it a read or watch, but on these warm sunny days, get out of the house for a walk.

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