Inspirational presenter Julia Bradbury recently asked the question “What is it about being outdoors ?” on her Cornwall and Devon Walking program. “It makes my heart sing” was the answer and Julia acknowledged a kindred spirit. I’m keen to try and describe what it means to me, not necessarily from a running point of view but more from a life long appreciation.
On a day to day basis the tasks that we set ourselves tend to be close at hand, for example, working from home on a laptop, the washing up, DIY and even more so, with us tied to the house due to the covid lockdowns. Therefore, your gaze can range from a meter, then increase to the end of the living room and at best finish with the end of the garden. I appreciate that many people are happy pottering around their house but I crave more !!
Being at home you inevitably connect with close at hand thoughts. The triggers to these thoughts might be the unfinished washing up or the letters that arrived in the post, more often than not you are thinking about a variety of tasks. When possible, I like to escape these four walls for some outdoor enrichment, even if it’s only for an hour.
The photo above is from half way up Butser Hill looking towards Queen Elizabeth Country Park. Being outdoors gives you a different outlook, the soil that you are standing on is a path, the South Downs Way to be precise and where the carpet at home links you to the house, the trail links you to the countryside. To use another sporting analogy you could say that “time out” was being applied in the basketball sense of stopping and regrouping as well as physically having “time out” – doors.
This different outlook is both visual and phycological so it allows you to focus on what’s in front of you but instead of a few meters worth in your house it’s the flowers off to your far right, it’s half a mile to the bottom of the hill, it’s a mile to the tree line and then the sky takes you to infinity and beyond !!
Every new view that you come across can be likened to meeting a new person, you pick out their distinguishing features, the colour of their eyes, facial expressions and their demeanor, in the same way when you are outdoors you see the colour of the wild flowers, the uneven trail where the wet mud has dried in the sun and the prospect of what’s over the next hill. All your senses are activated, you’ve left your living room and instead you are in the great outdoors, where there’s so much room, to live.
This next photo is again on the South Downs Way as you climb towards Old Winchester hill, for me it shows the contrasts of a view, the dappled sunlight from the overhanging trees can be compared with the cloudless sky, your eyesight is drawn from the complicated criss-cross patterns of the shade to the never ending canvas of blue above you. These far reaching views literally widen your horizons.
The more I’ve thought about the outdoors there’s one aspect that I hadn’t initially considered, the silence. At home or in town there are constant noises but out there you can be surrounded by silence. Saying that, the outdoors is always talking to you, the sheep, the wind, and even a tractor in the distance, however, whether you are running or walking the sound of the silence can actually take some getting used to.
Silence is peaceful, it lowers your blood pressure, it relaxes you, it’s like when you’re in the company of good friends and there are moments when nobody speaks but this is a comfortable silence. I guess I’m almost processing my surroundings while at the same time I’m not thinking about anything at all, just breathing it in. People often ask me do I listen to music when I’m on a long run and I reply that there’s no need.
Listening to the outdoors is definitely part of the enjoyment, it’s almost like the more you listen the more you take in. Many outdoor spaces have remained untouched for years whether that’s a park in the middle of town or the wild countryside. The phrase silence is golden certainly applies because you are feeding off the beauty that stretches out in every direction.
One final thought, I really like the phrase that The Great Outdoors website uses, “Find it – Share it – Live it” what great advice. The To come full circle it’s no surprise that Julia Bradbury is also linked with this site.
I hope I’ve answered the original question of “what is it about being outdoors” and hopefully planted some wild flower seeds in you, the readers mind, to get you out there and (safely) enjoy the great outdoors, locally at the moment and then further afield when lockdown is lifted.