Out There in It
I'd rather be outside
Today I made myself sit outside all day. After ten days in the mountain west, after returning home last week I’m having a hard time confining myself to an indoor work station. Time away from the usual routine was good, but after spending over a week with family (whom I love dearly and was glad to see, of course) I crave alone time. As the cliche goes, sometimes you need a [solo] vacation to recover from vacation.
Anyway, I have the capacity to work from a laptop and the internet usually reaches at least to the far side of the back deck.* So I set up my little “outside desk” (okay it’s a folding table and an old ratty office chair) and got to work around 7:30am. Things were quite pleasant for the first few hours, gentle breeze blowing, temperature gradually climbing to around 75 degrees, humidity reasonable, family sleeping soundly. Idyllic, you might even claim. Then the sun remembered that it’s July in Minnesota and things started heating up. My family found me and started asking for help with things. Humidity got fully in on the conversation and tagged in the deer flies and gnats to make their rounds. I moved around the perimeter of the deck to stay out of the brightest sunny spots and did my best to avoid the wasps that came around every so often. Break time midday was spend swatting at the deer flies* down by the lake as I paddled a tiny kayak around the shallows before heading back to the deck for a staff meeting. When quitting time rolled around in the afternoon I was feeling a little overheated, but not enough to regret the whole day spent outside (even if it was largely spent typing on a computer). Come 4pm, I was pretty uncomfortable, itchy from insect bites, and ready to jump in the lake.
Yet regardless the conditions, when I have a choice, I’d rather be out there in it instead of inside looking out. Even if being inside is more comfortable.
All that to say that my day outside reminded of a journal entry from a few years ago, also written after some time away from work in the summer, so I dug it out to share with you. The pandemic was in full swing, George Floyd had been murdered a month before in Minneapolis (45 miles south of me), and unprecedented was rapidly becoming the word of the year. Re-reading it reminded me why I so often feel compelled to embrace the discomfort of existing outside, and how important being out there in it remains.
July 6, 2020
It’s been exceptionally hot the last seven days, maybe more. The air feels heavy, like you are walking through a cloud all the time, even when it’s sunny. Time away from my 40 hour work week was good, but I am still craving solitude, time to do my own thing, even while I miss being in the company of others. The word “pandemic” makes me feel instantly irritable, and I don’t want to write about or discuss anything related to social distancing or quarantines or masks. Racial tensions, or rather, the issue of white supremacy and racism in this country (and others) is at the front of many an individual’s attention, and even still I am baffled (but not really surprised) at how so many white folks are either clueless or openly hostile toward those who want more equity and justice. There is ugliness seeping out of so many places in society, even while I sit at my table, looking across a perfectly calm lake, gentle breeze ruffling leaves in the basswood canopy.
Maybe that’s the metaphor—my view from inside is pleasant and serene, but the minute I step fully into the elements outside the door, deer flies buzz my head, mosquitoes bite, ticks cling, and the hot sun bares down through the sticky air. It’s still beautiful, but now I’m experiencing all of it. There’s no hiding from reality.
I walk out the door and wander along the seasonal stream, (that’s only running now because of torrential rains this morning that flooded the basement) mud and sticks leaving marks on my legs as I cross to the other side. I almost drop my flip phone and stumble as I lunge to catch it before it meets its demise in the swirling water. (This would be tragic of course…you just never know how long flip phones will be available—they are like a rare currency to be protected*.)
Despite the discomfort of being immersed in what is happening, this is when I feel truly alive—truly engaged. Awake and aware, tuned in to the cycles and patterns of earth and the people. Cycles and patterns that somehow both repeat through history yet also shift, and they are shifting now. And shifting has to happen to find the sweet spot. That more beautiful world is out there. But we’ve got to go out and be fully in it.
Written two years ago, but it rings true today, doesn’t it? The world hasn’t gotten any less chaotic, there’s still plenty of ugliness being uncovered, and conditions remain uncomfortable (and downright hard or terrible or unacceptable) for a great many—humans and non human alike.
For anything to change—and change it must—we have to be okay with being out there in it. No matter what the conditions.
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