Thursday, August 18, 2011

Indoors/Outdoors


You feel it the moment you step out the door. There is a scent in the air, a freshness notably different from the stale, recycled indoor air. The invitation to mingle, meld, merge and melt into the elements. To plunge into the watery warm womb of the back lake or yelp and shriek from the biting cold of the front lake, bringing every nerve cell alive and tingling. To feel the squeak of the fine sand and the grit of the coarse on bare feet, the tickle of dune grass on bare legs, the breath of cool air in the morning breeze on bare arms. Behind you the sun’s heat on the back of your black shirt, above the faint moon in blue sky giving way to its sibling. The winged gulls soar overhead and plunge for their breakfast, the morning birds sing in the day, the woodlands path is shadowed with light and dark dapple of leaves. You understand what old Walt Whitman meant when he wrote: “Now I see the secret of making the best person; it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”

Indoors, the L.L. Bean bird clock chimes a different bird call on the hour and it is initially charming and clever. And yet the opposite of what any bird would want—to be predictable, to mark the hours in measured minutes, to remind us that time marches on instead of taking us in its arms. (What was the line from the old Incredible String Band song? “Sometimes I want to murder time, sometimes when my heart’s aching. But mostly I just sit and watch, the path that he is taking.”) Outdoors, we read the news of the tracks in the sand, deer crossing raccoon tracks zig-zagging alongside gull-prints, indoors, the criss-crossed print of newspaper tells us yet again how humans lowered down to their baser selves. Indoors, we wonder what’s in the frig or on TV or if we’re unlucky enough to have wireless in our little cottage in the woods, what’s in our mailbox. Outdoors, the sun trumps the computer screen’s light, we search frantically for our little arrow, give up and run down to the beach. Or lean against a tree with a book, a pen and paper. If we forget the paper, we can scribble on some peeled birch-bark or write in the sand.

And so it goes on. Indoors, we’re three-feet high on a straight-backed chair or slumped in a couch, outdoors, sitting cross-legged on a pile of sand or stretched out on the earth looking up at clouds or floating in the water. Indoors, we’re self-enclosed in our own skin and thoughts and fretting and worries, outdoors we can carry it all with us, but the world offers to take some of the weight and invites us to notice the ladybugs or hummingbirds or first turn of Fall color.

I’m writing this to remind myself to get out!, noting how I can come up to this haven by two lakes and sit at the table writing, reading, playing Solitaire, a mere ten feet from the deck. When I finally step outside, I always wonder why I didn’t do it sooner. Of course, there is much to praise about the indoors, especially in rainy or cold weather and of course, we can bring our outdoor self indoors in much the same way we can carry our indoor self outdoors. But it is Summer, after all, and there’s no excuse for not being outside for most of the day and partake of Nature’s bounty. 

And so I close—see you at the lake!

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