This is What My Summers Looked Like

Yesterday, My husband and I did one of our “Saturday Morning Adventures.” We got the dog in the car, then drove out to a pretty spot and walked/hiked for an hour or so. Summers (and good weather generally) are short-lived enough in Vermont that any time the weather is fair, you make the most of it.

We were walking through a field on our way back to the car when I turned and looked back. This was my view:

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It immediately brought me back to every childhood summer I could remember. Woods, a field full of August Golden Rods, the smell of the sun on the grass, the sound of cicadas; it was like I was eight again.

My father was an outdoorsy kind of guy. It was his favorite place to be, and where he was happiest. In true Vermont fashion, he was a hunter. He spent large portions of his November weekends in tree stands waiting for a deer. Considering how unlucky he was, he waited a long time.

Thinking back, I’m convinced that half of the appeal of those tree stands wasbeing outside in the quiet and fresh air, away from the kids and responsibilities of family life.

But as a family, we would often spend summer evenings and weekend afternoons out there with him. We walked around the woods, scouting good locations for tree stands. Once we bought property, he put us to work cutting underbrush, trimming branches, planting more trees for a failed attempt at a Christmas tree business.

I hated it.

Especially as I made my way out of childhood and into my teens. The lure of climbing a tree or boulder lost appeal. I wanted to be reading a book, drawing, or listening to music. I was a typical teen: if it wasn’t appealing to me, I bitched and complained about having to do it. I made life a royal pain for anyone who stood in the way of my disinterest.

Oh, the irony now. I crave the woods. Granted, I still have absolutely no interest in cutting brush, trimming branches, or any of the things my Dad tried to get me to do. But walking, hiking in the woods? Yes please.

The weight of anxiety and stress falls off my shoulders almost immediately. As I breathe in the scents and fresh air, my mind clears and relaxes. My body revels in the movement as I use exposed roots and stones to boost my way up a hill. I see the monarch butterflies flitting around the 6-foot tall “weeds” and I feel the same wonder and joy I did as a child.

These Saturday morning adventures don’t usually burn too many calories; our old dog stops often, and the beagle in him gets distracted easily. While he’s still got a lot of desire, his reality is he tires quickly these days.

But there is so much more to health and fitness than calories burned, isn’t there? You can have the most ripped body in the tri-county area, but if you are stressed and miserable all of the time, you’re not in the best shape you can be.

The physical is part of it. But only part. Your emotional and mental bodies need to be worked out as well. They need to be recognized and addressed.

Those woods? Those weeds? That blue sky? Those cicadas whining? Best fitness regime I could have asked for on a sunny, warm September morning in Vermont.

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