Mary Beth Writes

I wrote the following column September 25, 2004 -- and now I am sitting at my desk September 15, 2017 and it is all just as relevant. Gorgeous day. It's going to be a beautiful weekend. Go outside!

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Hasn't this been a gorgeous week here? What perfectly perfect weather. Cool enough to sleep at night, bright mornings, warm and breezy afternoons illustrated by children kicking leaves on their way home from school. Sunsets more brilliant than a bargain bin in a Chihuly factory.

Yes, it's been a fairyland of a week and I have enjoyed it thoroughly.

Did you notice these two intriguing stories this week in the paper?

There seems to be benefits for some kids who have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) who play outside several hours per day.  Outdoor play in a natural space might be, for some kids, as powerful as medication. This is not a proven therapy, but a strong connection currently being studied.

Also, adults over 70 who walk less than a quarter mile per day are twice as likely to suffer from dementia as older folks who walk 2 miles or more per day.  Once again, this is not a guarantee or a treatment, simply a fascinating observation.  To keep perspective on this, the people who sit around eating bon-bons (I made the bon-bons part up, could you tell?) suffer symptoms of dementia at a rate of 18 people per 1000.  The walkers get struck with dementia at 10 per 1000.  As long as you are sure you are one of the 980 who are doomed to a sound mind (I wonder who is going to define that for us), I guess you can do what you want.

Both of these studies are interesting and both are aggravating.  Don't you just want to say, "Duh..."?

Experts just noticed that going outside and moving around makes us saner and healthier?  Where have the experts been the last few millennia?  Inside at their desks?    

If you've ever co-existed with a child you already know that kids who play outside are less squirrely than the ones who sit inside and watch TV all day.

There is something outside in the plainest of places that is never inside, not even in castles.  Outside is where we are more than the facts we know. 

There are realities outdoors that we intuit and process without thinking.  Our skin feels wind. Is it a mild southern wind that makes us calm?  Is it a greenish wind from the east that makes the hair on our arms stand up?   

We hear birds in the distance and pay no attention, unless it's a bird we've never heard before.  How did we notice that odd caw? 

The lake laps and roars.  There is a rustle in a field of growing crops.  A car comes down the street, on the other side of the house from where we are working in the yard, and we pay attention because it isn't familiar. We sense that someone is behind us and we turn, the neighbor's dog is staring at us.  We remember the wrapped snack cake we put in our pocket when the phone rang. 

There are so many things we know that we didn't learn from books or classes or interactive videos.  Outside is where we exercise those other, older skills of being human.  

What I have observed so many times in my life is this.  If we don't go outside, we get sick.  We need to let the knots inside us uncoil.  Somewhere in a day we need to move enough to turn off the tension in our shoulders.  We need to chug along, let oxygen whoosh all the way down to our toes and back. 

For some this is regular, organized outdoor exercise.  For others it happens when they work in the yard, or on the car, or mess around on boats, or take the kids to the park or the dog for a walk.   For children it happens when someone unplugs the TV and pushes them out the door.  They wander the yard or park or neighborhood.  They invent whatever their kid spirits need to invent that day. 

Here is where I've been going since I started this column. If you feel as though you are tied in knots, then let me remind you of something you already know. 

There is more to us than what we worry about.   

Go outside and be whole for a while.

 

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Quarantine Diary #17 3/30/2020

Why are people (lots of them) on Facebook posting photos of landscapes? The instructions say one should post a picture of a landscape one took somewhere, one should not say where that place is, and no people should be included, especially not the posting-person.  

Why? I don’t get it. I don’t mind but I really don’t get how this connects to anything.

A friend’s husband’s company had a virtual meeting this morning about the future of their company. Things are changing but not shutting down. They will still have income and insurance.  Thought you might like to know.  

Quarantine Diary #16 3/29/2020

I’ve been busy today so I’m a little late getting to this diary. Doing what, you ask? Oh, brilliant things like washing the bathroom and doing laundry and going for a blustery walk. Took the plastic off the particular windows we wrap in the fall.

Spent a chunk of the morning reading about the lead-up to the Revolutionary War battles at Saratoga. More about that later.  Reading about brave and canny, stupid and ego-centric politicians of an entirely different era is part of my coping strategy for life in the US. We aren’t the first to live in fraught times. Not by a long shot.

Quarantine Diary #15 3/28/2020

The Long-Awaited Groceries (The hymn “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” is in my brain right now) came last night at 9PM – when it was raining. A woman named Sarah, late 30’s, brown ponytail, not-posh sweatpants and hoodie – carried ALL our groceries across the street from her car to our porch. This included 8-packs of Gatorade plus boxes of seltzer water, plus lots of other heavy stuff. Did I mention it was raining?

Quarantine #14 3/27/2020

Last night we did another wild and crazy thing. We got in our car and went for a drive! The first thing we remarked to each other was that we had not been in the car together in weeks.  It felt a little odd to be in there, next to each other, about to GO SOMEPLACE! Maybe this is the way it feels to be the family dog when they let you sit in the front seat and EVERYTHING IS SO AMAZING!

We drove west into the rosy sunset, filled with excitement to, um, see the sky.  Quarantines are easiest on people who have a low bar for excitement.

Quarantine Diary #13 3/26/2020

What do you miss?  What, in our new pandemical world do you miss most from our pre-pandemical world?You know, the one we lived in till two weeks ago?

I don’t mean the heartbreaking realities such as safe medical care providers and enough places to go should one become ill and the loved ones that we are losing.

I just mean, what are we getting used to? Or trying to get used to. What might we never go back to?

Quarantine Diary #12 3/25/2020

Right now it is 11:00AM.  Got up this morning at the regular time. Did regular things. Came to the office to write. Worked (hardly at all) on a project, wrapped an item for eBay. Announced to Len at 10:30 that I was sleepy and going to take a nap.

You know what he said?  He said, “Me, too.”

The following half hour he took the sofa and I took our bed and both of us slept like toddlers on cots.

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